Can you tell us about the formation of Press To Meco? The band Press To Meco was kind of an evolution of a band I was in when I was really young. We started this new band and when the drummer left we got Lewis in who I knew from college as we were really good friends. We played around two shows. With me, Lewis (the drummer) and one of my old best friends bass player. Then the bass player left because he went to uni. We took a step back but felt like we still really liked the band style we were doing, we wanted to do something with. So we took like 6 months out, built the band again. It was me, Lewis and Adam, originally we had a keys player in the very first iteration of the band. It was alright, we had a few rehearsals. The keys player we had at the time was lovely, but he was a bit scatty. He had so many projects and he quickly left. Then it was just the three of us. I had know Adam the bass player from playing shows when I was younger, throughout the Crawley music scene. I always thought he was decent, so when we hit him up, he was well up for it. he was playing in an indie band at the time, and I think he just always wanted to be playing something a bit heavier really. Not that we are a heavy band, but something that has more riffs! So that was pretty much how it was born.
How did you get to the name Press To Meco, and what does it mean to you? Yeah, the name is a NASA term, it's basically part of a launch sequence, so when you've got a shuttle that launches, as you are building momentum the astronauts say to mission control "Main engine cut off, press to meco!" So MECO basically stands for â€œmain engine cut off.â€? The point when you have reached enough momentum to break orbit with just the smaller engine, you say that, the engine falls off, and it carries on. It's almost like the point of no return really, you are going to space, you are on your way, you can't stop it. We really liked the poetry in that name.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Crawley? There wasn't so much of a scene in Crawley, Adamâ€™s old school Hazelwick used to have these battle of the bands and they were always really good. A couple hundred of people would show up to these shows. It was when the cool thing to do was go to shows. The Myspace era, the internet existed but it wasn't quite as distracting as perhaps it is now. People would still be going to shows, and music was a big side of MySpace. Crawley was all right, but the best music scene was in a town along called Horsham. It's the best local music scene I have known ever. We were so lucky to have that on our doorsteps. We just grew up through that scene. It's funny because all of those bands in that scene were properly like my idols at the time. In reality they are average pub bands. They would play the odd local/small show. But when I was younger, looking up to those guys, they were like my idols. Real rockstars. So the Horsham music scene was wicked. Every year a couple of hundred people would turn up to the heats for the battle of the bands, and then in the final, it would be on the bandstand and three/four hundred people would turn up. It was wicked, proper cool.
Was there a particular moment when you knew that you had the potential to make a career out of music? Interview with Luke
The thing with bands is when you've been doing it for awhile, the graft of progression is so mellow it's very rare you get the case where a band has success over night, or in a week. Something where it just spikes. Don Broco are a really good example of this. They've been hashing it out for years that band. They started from the grass routes up. It is all just so slowly building that I think the next landmark comes after a lot of work. You don't really realise how far you've come half of the time, until you look back and be like "Oh wow, remember when we were struggling to get a local show?"
You certainly have a sound that can't be pigeonholed. So can you tell us how the original sound for Press To Meco came together? It's kind of evolved. I have always had a certain way of playing guitar, which is why I think a lot of the riffs sound the way they do. When I was younger I used to love bands like System of a Down, they were one of my favourite bands. I also love the Mars Volta, Sikth, Dillinger Escape Plan. It is a mixture of all of these elements. I feel like our band doesn't sound like another band. However so many sections sound like bits of other bands. One song could have a few different bits that could sound like other bands, rather than the whole song. I don't really know how it came about, it was just a natural progression. Every band I have always been in I have just liked writing stuff that feels like what I want to play. There are so many bands that are just carbon copies of other bands. Every label has got their own version of this band etc. It is an asset, and it's like our achilles heel as well. When it comes to the industry terms, we get overlooked a lot of the time. People want to put us in a box, like "What line-up do we put Press to MECO on?" or "Who do we position them with?" We are just our own thing. We have played with everyone. We have played with like Annotations of an Autopsy and we have played with a Thailand stadium rock/pop band! They couldn't be further worlds apart.
It must be great to tour with so many different styles of music? Yeah I mean it's fun for us, we've toured with Sixth and then Arcane Roots and now Don Broco! They are three hugely different tours. But we loved playing all of them, as we love all different styles of music. We are very privileged that we get to play on these different line-ups. I would just say that we are an alternative rock band.
'A Place In It All' gives a great balance to the album. Can you tell us how it came together, and maybe what it means to you? That one was interesting. I remember the guitar riff in that, which is like the main theme for all of the verses. I had been playing around with that for years, it was just one of those riffs that was in a demo folder. Just a ten second clip of that. I was literally just playing around with it one day, and then I was like "Oh I should try and make this into a song" and then I just started developing it, and developing it. I remember that song was weird. It came together over night pretty much. It was just me in my room and I remember starting it and thinking "Oh this could be something!" then by the end of it I loved it! As soon as I started putting vocals in it, it all came together. We started to jam it as a band, with everyone chipping in. Then it started to become the song that it is now. It's going to be interesting to see what people think of that, as the first half of that is the lightest we have ever been as a band, and it get's a bit heavier towards the end. It's going to be so interesting to see what people think of these songs. We have been sat on them for ages now. I always go through this thing where I love and hate our songs so many times when I'm sat on an album. I go through stages of hating them, and worrying if they are better or worse than the last thing we did. Over the years I have learnt to just shut my brain off, it's just me being paranoid because we have sat on it and heard these songs so many times. You make yourself sick of them, especially if it's your own thing, you become hypocritical of everything. People might like it, people might hate it. We'll see!
How did the music video for 'Here's To The Fatigue' come together, and what does it mean to you? That was Lewis' friend Callum, he has done a bunch of our friends videos, and that was one of those things where we needed to turn around a music video quick. So we just hit Callum up and started talking about ideas. He put forward this treatment of this kid in his room messing about. The reason he can't sleep is because he has got this ever present Donnie Darko kind of figure haunting him. It just fit the premise of the song. Where you bury your worries, stuff you need to deal with, and you just overlook it. It just gets bigger and bigger until you have to face up to it, and tackle it head on. It was never a problem before, once you have sorted it. It's why the scene at the end with them sleeping was important. I feel like once you have overcome something you have a newfound respect for it. If you weren't scared of it, then you would of never pushed yourself to become a stronger person by dealing with this. It runs in line with the "Here's to the fatigue" theme, we've all got demons. We have all got to have fun, we've just got to deal with them.
So how did you end up signing to Marshall Records? We spoke to them in early 2017, because it is a brand new label it was set up in a way that wasn't necessarily going to work for this band. So originally we didn't really pursue that avenue. Then after back and forth with a couple of record labels, we decided that we were going to self release. Steve the head from Marshall called us about two weeks before the self-release date. He said that "Lots of things have changed, the infrastructure has changed, can I sit down and have a chat with you." You can't not, because you've got to hear everyone out. We were a bit sceptical when we went to meet him but after a couple of hours of chatting to him about everything, he answered all of the questions we had, everything we were worried about. It was just one of those things where it was like "This could be really good" Then we left the meeting and had a chat, and decided that it was what we all wanted to go for. Literally a week and a half before it was about to come out we had to put a message out and pull the release. Everyone was so understanding, and we were so grateful to our fans for being that way. We were really humbled by the response to that. It's good that it's all sorted now. It's just nice to know that people care, and that they don't hate us!
What else can we expect to see from Press To MECO in 2018? Touring, just so much touring! With the new album we are going to just tour for the next year/year and a half. To be honest when we get back from this we are going to start writing the next one. I mean it's been over a year since we recorded that now, just because of everything that happened. You've got to start early because all of the songs take a while to come together. They go through all of these different stages. After the three tours we've just done, and the headline one just before the Sikth tour, it's like we're quite inspired at the moment to get writing. It's one of those things where you just don't know what's going to happen. A year from now the band might of split up! Nothing might of gone to plan, but you've just got to go for it sometimes and see how it works out.
Can you tell us a bit about what the music scene is like in Keansburg, New Jersey? Geographically, it’s in a very opportune location. Right in-between Philadelphia and New York City, there are always shows within reach. I think New Jersey for one reason or another, has always had a rich history with music. I feel lucky to have Can’t Swim be a part of it now.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you would love to make a career out of making music? Can’t Swim hit the ground running as soon as we started. We hadn't even had a practice before we put out a record with a label. So we did our best to play catch up and figure out how to be a band within a few weeks (haha). I don’t think we ever sat down and said “Hey, do you guys want to continue this and make a career out of it?”. We kinda just played the cards we were dealt and haven’t looked back since. As a kid, I certainly wanted this and dreamed one day it would happen, where I could play music around the world with my best buds, it’s crazy to think Can’t Swim made that come to fruition.
So looking back on the release of your debut album 'Fail You Again', how happy have you been with the response to it, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Can't Swim? I am personally very proud of that record. It was the first real project we all made together, and I hear that every time I listen to it. It’s great to create something on your own that you enjoy, but it is far greater to make something with people you respect as musicians. As far as how it was “received”, I think with the short time we have been a band, and seeing people really enjoy it and having it make an impact on them, it’s far more than I could ever ask for.
Interview with Chris What songs are you still really enjoying performing live the most from 'Fail You Again', and why? ‘Stranger’. Something about the lyrics or just the general tone of that song, whenever we play it, it makes me feel like this is what I should be doing with my life. I think it’s a relatable song, a lot of people go through what I’m singing about, so seeing the fans sing it back at me at shows is pretty powerful.
What do you think you learnt the most from making 'Fail You Again', is there anything that you'd like to change or focus more on when you record further material? Take your time. If something is coming to you, don’t force it. Write another song. Take a break. Revisit it. If it doesn’t feel organic, it will come out sounding not like your band. A good song should take 30 minutes to write. Be patient and wait for that to happen.
Leading on from that, have you started work on any new material just yet, and if so, what do you think fans can expect from it? Certainly. We are always writing. I think we are just going down the same road we previously walked down. Making music together, having it feel right, having everyone’s input, focusing on what we do live and how to make that happen in the studio.
How excited are you for your upcoming slot at Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? We love England. I have been to Slam Dunk a few times, and it’s a lovely festival. We are excited for Can’t Swim to finally play it. The audience can except a bunch of jet lagged Americans head banging on stage and singing really loud, it’s going to be a blast.
How important do you think festivals like Slam Dunk are to the UK music scene? Very. It gives those in attendance a chance to check out a bunch of bands that they might of never heard of any other way. Something to look forward to. There’s a feeling of community when you see 5 thousand people who are into the same music as you, it’s very important.
For those heading to the festival that are reading this. What one song of yours would you pick for them to check out as a starting point to Can't Swim, and why? ‘Your Clothes’. It covers all the dynamics we have in our other songs, almost like a medley of our records!
Here's a tricky one. What band would you say you learnt the most from? Microwave. They are insanely talented, incredible songwriters, and painfully handsome. They have a true love for what they are doing and it shows every time they play on stage.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2018? Tours. New music. Stupid Instagram posts.
Interview with Ant
Can you tell us about the formation of Black Foxxes? Absolutely. I knew of both Mark and Tris from local shows over the years, we never really hung out but we ran in the same circles. Mark hit me up in early 2013 to play drums for a new project he had started. Shortly after jamming we found ourselves without a bassist. We didn’t know who was going to be a good fit so toyed with the idea of becoming a two piece for all of two seconds. Luckily my house mate back then told me Tris would be great for this project and he was back from uni. We played a show around a month later and here we are now!
How did you get to the band name Black Foxxes, and what does it mean to you? There’s not really any deep meaning behind it. It was just one of many ideas flying around. We kept going back to it so it made sense. I think collectively we hate it now, maybe..
How did your recent tour go with Deaf Havana, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? The tour was really cool, those dudes are the best and their fans are serious music lovers which always makes shows that little bit more fired up. It’s hard to pick highlights but I’d probably say our first UK headline tour on the back end of 2016. We’ve had some amazing support tours but playing your own shows and seeing how invested your fans are first hand is pretty special.
So, how did you get to the album title ‘Reiði’, and what does it mean to you? Mark had written some stuff out in Iceland so it felt right to choose an Icelandic word for the title. I feel like we’ve always got something to say and the title reflects that.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout ‘Reiði’? Mark writes his lyrics about how he’s feeling and what’s going on in his life at that moment in time, I think you can really hear that in our songs but at the same time it’s still left wide open for the listener to make their own conclusion. That’s the way we like songs to be, music is personal after all.
What was the hardest part about putting ‘Reiði’ together for you guys, and why? I don’t think anything was too difficult. Writing was super organic and the studio was the most fun I’ve ever had recording. I’d probably say getting the artwork finalised and signed off was the hardest part of this record. Everyone has a vision and sometimes it’s hard to get those visions to line up but we got there!
What made you want to release ‘Sæla’ first, and can you tell us a bit about how this track in particular came together? I think as a band we were pretty open to a first release and at the time the consensus was that track. Mark had brought a bare bones version into the early stages of writing for this record. It didn’t take long to get that one to a point where it felt like a Foxxes track, although It’s definitely something a little different for us.
How did the album artwork for 'Reiði' come together, and what was it like to work with John Karborn? It took some time to find something we all liked. After looking at loads of ideas and nothing sticking Mark found this piece of art by John and we were all instantly happy with it. Luckily John was happy for us to use it for the album art and was a real pleasure to work with throughout.
How would you say the sound of Black Foxxes has grown/changed since the release of 'I'm Not Well'? It’s grown really naturally. I think we’ve all become better players and even more so as a band since that record. We’re all super proud of ‘INW’ but we’ve always seen this band being more diverse sonically and with ‘Reiði’ I feel we’ve reached this.
Also, looking back on 'I'm Not Well', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Black Foxxes? Like I said on the previous answer we’re all really proud of that record. It’s a collection of songs from the start of the band up to when we recorded it. If it’s done anything for us it’s shown people we’re not afraid to be bold and put it all out on the line. Real music.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We seriously can’t wait for this tour, I’ve been thinking about it since we finished up festival season in September last year. Broken ear drums, it’s going to be loud out there!
What else can we expect to see from Black Foxxes in 2018? Once we’ve finished up the headline UK & EU tour we jump straight into festival season. We’re playing some new festivals and some familiar ones, it’s going to be a great summer. We will be back on tour at the end of the year too.
Touring wise, what have you been up to over the last couple of months, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Getting to visit America for the first time was absolutely wild. It’s something we've been trying to make happen basically since the band started, so to get to finally do it was just fantastic. We had a great time supporting While She Sleeps around Europe in January too. Again, we got to go to a bunch of cities we'd never been to. The travel element of touring is something I love.
Have you been performing any new tracks live just yet? If so, what has that been like for you so far? So far we've mainly been playing the first two singles ‘Rituals’ and ‘Balancing The Dark’. It’s been great working them into the set and seeing how they sit alongside older material. I think the reaction live has been pretty strong so far!
So! How did you get to the album title 'Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It', and what does it mean to you? It’s taken from a poem by Richard Brautigan and I first came across it on a print a friend of mine has made. For me, it’s about forgiveness and love giving you the strength to move forwards.
You have said that with this record you want there to be "more optimism and colour to it", so can you maybe elaborate on that, and how you would say the sound on this record compares overall to anything you've done before? This album features some of the grandest, most anthemic/melodic music we've ever written. There may have been slight hints at that side to our band on previous records but never have we pushed that element to the extreme we have on here. The important thing, for us, was to strike a balance between that and the heavy side that worked. I think we managed that.
Alternatively you said that with 'Balancing The Dark' "This song, almost unintentionally, became one of the most unsettling we’ve ever written" so can you tell us a bit about that, and maybe how that track in particular came together?
‘Balancing The Dark’ was something that Chris wrote. When we talked about the album title he took something slightly different from it than I did, which is great because it led to a more diverse sounding album overall. The track came together quite naturally in our practice space. Nathan with James and I had worked on the intro/outro and had been dying to put it to something and got lucky that it fit perfectly with the song Chris had written in-between it!
How did the music video for 'Balancing The Dark' come together, and what would you say it means to you? Again, with it largely being Chris's song, he worked on the concept for the video. He wanted to create an unsettling atmosphere that gives you a feeling that you’re not quite safe yet. It’s heavily influenced by Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene & The Sound Of My Voice by Zal Batmanglij both of which gave him a similar feeling.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It' together, and why? Agreeing on the final tracklisting. We had the first two songs and the final song in place but took SO LONG to decide how the rest of it should be sequenced. There were so many combinations that worked and it was just a case of finding something we could all agree on!
How did the album artwork for 'Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It' come together, and what does it mean to you? It was done by our close friend Simon Moody. He's done the artwork for all the studio albums we've released. We give him the title, the lyrics and the music when that’s finished and he just gets on with it. He'll only ever deliver the finished cover and we've never had to change anything he's sent. To me, when I focus on the cover I pick out the flame on the top of one of the obelisks. It represents the flame of eternal love!
Looking back on 'Grievances', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Rolo Tomassi? I'm still so happy with ‘Grievances’. I've loved touring it and still enjoy playing the songs live. I feel like it was a record that changes peoples perspectives on what we were as a band and took us in a direction that we all enjoy. I think ‘...Love Will Bury It’ will only further that.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We CAN'T WAIT. Having just done two back to back support tours the idea of doing our own shows is very appealing to us. Especially when we have an album's worth of new material to roll out. People also need to get down early for the supports Cryptodira and Palm Reader. It’s going to be a great package.
What else can we expect to see from Rolo Tomassi in 2018? A lot of touring. We've got a busy year, plenty of dates in the diary, not all announced yet! Keep your eyes peeled...
How has your tour with Architects been going so far, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road with them? Touring with Architects is great. I love them all both as musicians and friends. For some reason, since we met in 2011, they keep throwing us bones and bringing us out. It's a win-win for us. Obviously their following has grown exponentially in the UK and Europe and it's great to expose our music to new people who may have never heard it otherwise. Personal highlights would be them letting us use their ping-pong table. We found out our guitar tech Jerry is a pro or something. Crazy.
Also! How did your recent UK tour go, and can give you us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road here as well? The UK has always been great for us. We know now that if we're playing anywhere in the UK there's a high chance that the show is going to be insane. It's been that way since our first tour here with Your Demise. The last London show before the Ally Pally gig was a personal highlight for all of us. Definitely one of the best shows in our career. I feel like every time we play London it keeps getting better and better.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Youâ€™re Not You Anymore', and what does it mean to you? The title, quite simply put, is me addressing an obvious change. Whether it be for the better or for worse, in myself or in others, a change in a romantic relationship or platonic. It just symbolizes change. The title itself is ambiguous and I think a lot of people have their own opinion of whether it's positive or negative and whether it's aimed at someone else or myself, and I like to keep it that way. No one is right or wrong.
Interview with Brendan
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'You’re Not You Anymore'? The record will take the listener through my own feelings and emotions from when ‘TWFU’ left off until present day. As I said, the record addresses many changes in my life and how I am adjusting to all of them.
You have said that "'Swim Beneath My Skin' is a song about how we allow ourselves to be so vulnerable it feels like another human being is literally making their way through your body." Can you elaborate on that, as well as maybe what the song means to you personally? I think the more we care of about someone or something, the more we allow ourselves to open up and truly share our being. ‘Swim’ is literally me saying "I will allow you in and I will promise to make sure you are safe." I think it is a good representation of what real love means to me.
What was it like to work with Will Putney, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Working with Will is always great. He's done our last three records and honestly, I don't see us working with anyone else. His ideas and the way he motivates us to truly give all that we can is what shapes these records, and the reason why I am more proud of Will Putney produced releases as opposed to the early albums. He's a genius.
How did the artwork for 'You’re Not You Anymore', come together, and what does it mean to you? When Trey and I were throwing ideas around for the artwork we knew that we wanted it to be minimal. We were going through photos he had taken from our recent tour in Japan and we came across the photo that would be the ‘YNYA’ artwork. I liked it because for me, it reminds me of a time when I was actually very happy. We were all in Japan together and it truly felt like we had overcome all the obstacles the band had faced prior to the trip. It also reminds me of the ‘Haunt Me’ lyrics because it really supports the message of me being a shell for people to come and go as they please. The building is in a garden in Shinjuku and I'm sure lots of tourists pass by it daily. Without getting too crazy here, I like to think that maybe I myself am an empty home waiting for people to enter and exit, if that makes sense?
How would you say the sound of Counterparts has grown/changed since you first started out? Well I think that our music has gotten WAY better first and foremost. I think that we finally understand our place in the scene whereas before we were somewhat lost. We know what people expect from us now in terms of writing, live performance, etc. We have a better understanding of the fan base that allows us to do this as a career. I think that's very valuable. I think the band went from being this cluster of ideas into a fairly well oiled machine. Obviously we still mess up a bunch, but we learn and grow with every release and after every tour we do.
How excited are you for your upcoming slot at Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? Slam Dunk should be psycho. We didn't even see the full lineup until after we got announced. There's so many great bands and we've wanted to play the festival for years, and I'm stoked it finally worked out. Fans can expect HITS ONLY all bangers for the entire set. No time for anything else.
What else can we expect to see from Counterparts in 2018? Literally so much touring. If you're coming to a show this year expect to hear the hits off ‘YNYA’, as well as the old staples. Maybe some new music, we have some ideas that we're throwing around now and there might be an opportunity to record a couple tracks later on. If so, we'll take it.
Can you tell us about the formation of Twitching Tongues? We began in 2009 as an idea between my brother Taylor (guitar) and I to do a hardcore band with clean vocals, taking inspiration early on by bands like Type O Negative, Life of Agony, Only Living Witness and Sam Black Church.
How did you get to the band name Twitching Tongues, and what does it mean to you? Twitching Tongues is a song by the band Only Living Witness mentioned above. It's great. You should listen to it.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Los Angeles? I'd imagine the same as being an upcoming band anywhere else, with just a couple million more people around. Due to there being a new band popping up every single day, you have to bust your ass and be different just to get noticed. LA's hardcore community is one of the biggest and best in the world, and it took them quite a while to understand and warm up to us.
The album title 'Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred' is a quote by Eric Hoffer, so what made you pick that line, and what does it mean to you guys? It's about overcoming the things and people who want to break you and burying them in a pile. Whether it be your political system, the kid that bullied you in 4th grade, your ex boyfriend, anything that can possibly drive you towards discouragement, use it as the ultimate tool to fight back.
You have said that "failure" is at the core of the lyrical content. So can you elaborate on that, and maybe what other themes Interview with Colin and influences we can expect to hear on 'Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred'? That was the word in the back of my head throughout the entire lyrical process. Failure as an individual, failure as a country, failure in love, failure as a band.
It's your first time at taking on the political arena, so what made you want to venture that way, and how was that whole experience for you as a writer? It's at the point in the US where I think if you aren't using your platform in some way to speak out about the tyranny within our elected political party then you donâ€™t deserve to have a platform.
We've read that the record is influenced by film scores, so what do you love so much about that type of music, and can you explain why you think it's become such an influence on the band? Because they're such an important part of telling the story that are constantly overlooked. In most of your favorite film scenes of all time I guarantee there's a beautiful piece of music underneath. The way they flow together and bring things back throughout the hours and hours of film time is so brilliant to me when done effectively, and I wanted just a little bit of that to be present throughout our record. It might take an eagle ear to find it, but it's there.
How did the artwork for 'Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred' come together, and what does it mean to you? The artwork was done by my friend and brilliant tattooer/painter Marc Nava. It is a universal symbol of power over our own symbol of power.
How did the music video idea for 'Harakiri' come together, and what was it like to work with David Brodsky? That was a very cool thing. You would not believe how difficult it was to pick a song to be the first single. When factoring in time, genre style and all of that it seemed like Harakiri was the best fit. I had a very simple goal with this video before thinking about the outline or treatment. Make a video that somebody will want to watch twice. You just NEED to watch it again. Hopefully we were able to achieve that. It's a cool and fun video that showcases who we are as a band as well as our own individual personalities.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred' together, and why? Waiting for it to come out! The recording process was an unbelievable breeze this time around. The only thing that was even remotely difficult was waiting between July and this March for it to come out. We did two US tours between that where we couldn't say anything about it other than playing a new song. It feels so good just to finally be able to talk about it and share a few songs with everyone.
What else can we expect to see from Twitching Tongues in 2018? Touring our goddamn asses off and hopefully playing to everyone who wants to see us. Thank you.
Interview with Landon
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Ohio? There were a ton of bands coming out of Ohio in the heavy music scene when we did. We were just fortunate enough to be able to keep doing it for an extended period of time.
Was there a particular moment when you knew that you were going to be a career lasting band, if so what was that whole experience like for you guys? Not at all, we've barely hung on year after year. But luckily there's always been enough going for us to at least keep us motivated and inspired.
How did you end up signing to Fearless Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? We'd fulfilled our contract with our prior label. We'd kind of been shopping around lazily, just exploring options and seeing what was out there. Fearless came to us and had a very similar vision for the band that we had had. A vision we couldn't have achieved on our own. So it brought a lot of life back into the band. They've been incredible to us. It feels like our first REAL label experience.
How did you get to the album title 'DISPOSE', and what does it mean to you? It's essentially revolved around the lyrical content. Which is a departure from something that isn't helping you grow and progress in life.
You have said that 'DISPOSE' focuses on a "toxic personal relationship", so if possible, can you tell us about that, and what other themes/influences we can expect to see on the album? It explores a lot within a relationship dynamic, which I feel is best left to be interpreted by the listeners themselves. But there are other songs about our experience in the industry, depression, hopelessness. It covers a variety of human emotions.
You have just unleashed the track ‘DISPOSABLE FIX’, can you tell us a little bit about the song’s creation and story? I'd originally written the instrumental for a solo artist I've worked with over the years. I quickly realized it wasn't the right vibe for him, and I felt like I could do a lot with it myself. So I hijacked it and made it into what it is now. It's just kind of a "goodbye" track to the person it's written about, as well as a farewell on the record.
Also, how did the ideas for the music video for ‘DISPOSABLE FIX’ unfold, and what was it like to work on? Our drummer Mathis (who directed, edited, and coloured the video) had the idea for the concept. It was honestly pretty miserable, he sucks to work with for us because we're in the same band. So he bosses us around and treats us like dogs. I think the scene where I'm hanging from the ceiling did permanent damage to my back. So yeah, screw Mathis!
How would you say Drew Fulk helped shape the album as producer? He came up with a lot of production ideas I don't think I would have ever came up with on my own. He's a very creative and weird guy. Him and I worked very well together. He's never afraid to tell me when something sucks, and keeps me from over using cuss words. 100% want to work with him again.
How did the artwork for 'DISPOSE' come together, and what does it mean to you? Josh found the artwork for this record from some photographer. I honestly can't remember the name. It resembles lady liberty which symbolizes freedom, freedom from the past essentially.
What was it like to do a cover of 'Let It Go' by James Bay, and how did you go about bringing a Plot In You approach to it? It was cool, we'd already had a version of it demoed out before they'd even asked us to do it. Not even for the band, literally just for fun because we liked the song. So yeah, when they asked it was just a matter of making some revisions and then boom.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour with We Came As Romans, and what can attending fans expect? Very. It's been a long time since we've been out there. Last time we were there no one liked us at all, so it'll be interesting to see how it goes this time around. We'll be playing a lot of new stuff, it'll be sick.
What else can we expect to see from The Plot In You in 2018? Lots of touring. Outside of that is still a mystery. We'll see how it all goes!
People describe you as blues rock band, but I would actually say that you have a very diverse sound which changes from track to track. So, for you how do you think the sound of The Temperance Movement first came together? It’s a really hard question this. I don’t really mind what people call us. I think that most musicians don’t love being put in a pigeonhole. Mainly just because there’s an assumption that if you’re called a blues rock band, then you can’t record a soul tune or acoustic ballad etc. Between the five of us our influences and what we listen to is very wide. You like to think that you have the creative freedom to explore all of that. So when you start to get pigeonholed it starts to make that feel a bit more difficult. I would just call us a rock and roll band. The main reason for that is that it’s quite broad. It can be very soulful, heavy. That’s not really what the band is about, hopefully we are just about good songwriting within whichever sound we’re making at the time.
nterview with Paul
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were going to be more than just an upcoming band? In the early days it started moving very quickly. It took us by surprise. We played the Scala in London to around 700-800 people. We sold it out! We didn’t have an album out, a manager, a record deal. We just had nothing. For me (it was maybe different for other members of the band) that was one of the moments where I was like stood on stage and thought that it was outgrowing what we originally thought it was going to be.
Leading nicely on from that, what was it like to tour with The Rolling Stones, and what do you think you learnt the most from that time? Obviously it was awesome to tour with them. It seems like a dream now really. One of the main things that I took away from that, was that although they’re playing to 80,000 people a night they don’t have a huge stage show. They don’t have loads of fireworks, they don’t go flying over the crowd on a platform. It’s just the band, and the big screens, that’s it. The reason it works is because every single one of those 80,000 people know every word to every song. It really drove home to me, that basically, if you have got the songs, then you can kind of do anything. That’s what people really respond to, is the songwriting. I think that songwriting is why they have been so successful. And their huge charisma as well. It’s interesting Keith said to me “Just make sure that you keep it together.” At the time we were flying high, and I didn’t really totally get what he meant. He was pretty serious when he said it to me. As we had been on the road for quite a while, certain aspects of what we do started to get a bit tougher. Just from being away so much. With Luke leaving, then I kind of understood what Keith meant. Which is, one of the most amazing things about the Stones is that they’re still together! Because none of the other bands from that genre are. Even with him and Mick falling out at times. Whatever has happened they have kept the band together, and kept it together. That is also how they have grown into this HUGE act, which is so loved that they have kept going.
So when did the vision/initial sound for 'A Deeper Cut' first come together? The songwriting for the record happened in quite a short space of time, maybe over 6-7 months. Before that there was quite a bit of soul searching within the band about what we were going to do next. We had been out in America for quite a chunk of time, I think there were a lot of opportunities presenting themselves to us. However, all of those choices confused us for a little while. We weren’t sure which path to take. It’s almost like there was too much on. Then we tried a couple of things, we did writing with a specific aim in mind, but we didn’t really love the result. We just really came round to the conclusion that what we needed to do was just make a Temperance Movement record without worrying about it too much. That’s what we did. So as soon as we made that our kind of approach, then it all just fell into place really quickly.
How did Matt White & Simon Lea end up becoming a part of The Temperance Movement, and what have they been like to work with so far? So the band got together through this musician scene in London anyway. We already knew Matt and Simon really well. I had played with them both a lot before the band. We didn’t have to put an advert out looking for a guitar player or drummer, anything like that. It was a phone call really. To some extent there’s a period of adjustment where they have to really become a part of the band. Rather than just a musician playing in the band. There were no kind of surprises, as we had all played with them before. The great thing was around the time Simon joined we were starting to go into this phase of making ‘A Deeper Cut’. Once you’ve made an album together, and anyone has been able to contribute to the recording and writing of the record. Then they are as much a part of the band as the guys that left. As we’ve made a record together. That’s them on the record, and they have invested in that album with the rest of us. Matt joined a bit earlier, and we did quite a bit of touring with him on the ‘White Bear’ album. For Simon especially, making a new album for a band is like hitting the reset button. So it was good timing to get him in when we did, and all make an album together, and go out and tour it. So that it’s something where everyone standing on stage has been a part of it.
How did you get to the album title 'A Deeper Cut', and what does it mean to you? I don’t know if you’ve heard the expression “A Deeper Cut” as referring to an album track from a record. We liked this phrase which had been thrown around a couple of times. We started getting the feeling of the possible double meaning to it. The song ‘A Deeper Cut’ is one that Phil had started writing. He played it to us, and as soon as we heard the start of the song that he had, we also realised that it would be a great title to the album. The meaning of the album title is quite separate to the meaning of the song. The album title is lots of things, it’s kind of a bit of a nod to the fact that we all still really believe in albums. We all still listen to albums within their entirety. There’s something important about listening to a record in its entirety like that, in a world where people are just listening to the odd single on a playlist that they have created. So it’s a bit of a nod to that. It’s also referring to the fact that we are presenting more of our influences and styles of music that we play on this album. It’s a bit broader sounding than the previous ones. Also, the band have had a bit of a period of change. Although we have definitely come out of the other side of it. When Luke and Damon left, it wasn’t easy for a while. It was quite a thing to get over. So we had to really dig quite deep to come out of the other side of that.
So how did you end up working with Sam Miller once more, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Sam is obviously a friend. Again in the early days, he was someone that we used to work with on other projects. We made the first record ourselves and it was kind of like very much a sort of group mentality, getting our friends in to help us make this record. As I say, we were going through all of these options for making this one. Rather than us feeling like there was a really obvious great path for us to take, we were feeling like all of these options were almost stopping us from getting started and making the album. It was a decision to just make the best Temperance Movement album we can, and just be ourself. Sam has very much been a part of that from day one. Once we kind of realised that that was the approach we should take. It was also very obvious that we should go back in with Sam as well.
You've said that you "feel like we've really captured what the band is about on this one", so can you elaborate on that, and maybe how the sound compares overall to anything you've done before? For the first album, we really had this very roar, purest approach to how we made that album. It’s the five of us set up in a room, and we basically played the songs start to finish, and that’s the record! At the time, we weren’t so even aware of the fact that we were making an album. The band had got to a certain point and we didn’t have anything recorded, we had written all of these songs. So we booked a few days in the studio and we went in and recorded everything that we had written to that point. It became the first album. We weren’t like “Right, we need to go into the studio and write our first album!” It just came about. The second album, it’s quite narrow sounding to me. It’s us sort of wanting to write an album that sounds very different to the first one. Personally, with ‘White Bear’ I am very proud of it, but it’s way heavier than I consider the band to me. With this one, we knew obviously that the third album was important. So we put a lot of thought into it, rather than just rushing into the studio like the first one. Also we decided that we weren’t going to put any restraints on what we were doing. Whether it was a piano ballad from Phil, or something that I had written on an acoustic guitar. Whatever it was, it was an open table for everyone to bring in what they had to contribute musically. The result of that, is that you see more sides of what the band truly is. It goes back to your earlier question about whether we are being described as a blues rock band or a rock n roll band or whatever. It’s hard to do that, because we are all of those things, and more. You can get caught up into worrying about whether certain sounds or songs sit together on a record. That really slows the creative process down. So we decided to just make the music that we wanted to make. We did that for a while. In the back of my mind through that process I knew that if it didn’t sit together on an album well then we didn’t really need to worry about it. You get to the end of it, and you sit down. You see what you’ve got, and how it all sounds together. So because we weren’t worrying about whether it worked together, or how we wanted to present the band, we were just being creative, then it actually sounds very comfortable. To me it sounds like “Us”. You’ve got material on there that’s pretty heavy, and then you’ve got some mellow ballads as well. It’s just a better representation of what we’re into musically, and what we want the band to me, and how we would like people to think of the band.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Belfast? Basically when we first formed we thought that we were the only four people in Northern Ireland who actually liked that sort of music. By that I mean punk rock which was only just starting out in those days. So when we played we were surprised that there was even an audience. However, what we didn’t know was that half the people in the audience were also in bands playing the same thing. There were a couple of guys from The Outcasts there. In the meantime while we were doing this. Slightly ahead of us in Dublin was The Boomtown Rats and The Radiators from Space. Obviously at the same time up in Derry, The Undertones were playing. There was a lot more in terms of interest than we thought was likely. To be honest with you there were very few places to play. Those places that did put on local bands wanted you to do cover versions of The Eagles or Van Morrison songs. Stuff like that. Obviously we would phone up saying that “We are a band” then they’d say “Great, what do you play?” The minute we said we were a punk rock band, the phone went down! It got a lot harder when you started to write your own material. Even when they realised that there was an audience for a punk rock band they would still expect you to turn up and play The Sex Pistols or The Damned songs. So when you said that you wrote your own material. That was just another excuse for them to put the phone down! It was a bit of an uphill struggle for all of us really.
What bands influenced you the most when you first started out as Stiff Little Fingers, and why? Undoubtedly it was the original British wave of punk rock bands. The Damned, The Sex Pistols, The Clash in particular were a huge influence. Just simply because of the fact that they were writing songs about their lives. That to me gave the whole punk rock movement legs. Up until then I thought it was a short sharp shock thing to be in the music business. It’s a terrible thing to say, but I didn’t really see any future in any of it. Until I heard The Clash, and I thought that there’s a depth there that is kind of missing from the others. It sort of made us believe in it a bit more. Other bands that influenced us include Dr. Feelgood. An original influence, and the reason I picked up a guitar was because of Rory Gallagher. That made me stop in my tracks and think “Oh, I want to do that, I want to play guitar!” Everybody in the band had their own influence, Ali was much more influenced by the American bands. He was the first person I met that had records by the MC5 and The Stooges. I had heard the names, but they weren’t big sellers. He had them on import, which was exotic behind belief. “You pay for import records, are you crazy?”
Last year you celebrated your 40th anniversary as Stiff Little Fingers. So what was that whole experience like for you guys and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road?
Yeah, obviously a big highlight of the year was playing the show in Belfast. To go back to where you started. It was the biggest show that we had ever done there. We did an open air show with over 5,000 people in attendance. It was also nice because we were able to bring some friends to come over and play with us. The Stranglers, The Ruts, and The Outcast all played. It was great to have people who are/have been friends (or friendly rivals!) since day one to be part of the whole thing. That actually went so well that we might turn it into an annual event. Who knew that there was that amount of interest there. It was a pretty gruelling year, and we actually haven’t finished it just yet, as I am leaving to Australia tomorrow for the w with Jake final leg of the 40th anniversary tour. There was an amount of reflection involved in it as well. Because I’ve done a lot of interviews where people ask me “Did you ever see yourself doing this for 40 years?” and of course the answer is no. That obviously did make you stop and look back over the last 40 years. To be honest with you, sometimes it felt like the blink of an eye. I can still remember the first day we rehearsed with Ali in the band, in a little church hall in Belfast. It was one of those things where once we started playing we all realised that it was a step up from where we had been before. Things like that sort of started to come back to you. The first time you heard your record on the radio, the first (nearly the last) time we did Top Of The Pops. They didn’t take to us very well. It was entertaining, and there were a lot of highlights as we went round. Playing in Glasgow is always a highlight for us. It’s almost like a home town show now. Again the thing that has always surprised me about this band, is the sheer amount of affection people seem to have for it. It kind of goes beyond a rock band audience. It’s almost like a football crowd. It’s like we are their team, and they’re going to stick with us. That was brought home time and time again as we were going around. It was nice from that point of view. It was humbling as well, to think of songs that you had wrote in the front bedroom of your parent’s home over forty years ago which still seemed to mean so much to so many people. That’s incredible.
So you have an annual St Patrick’s Day show at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. How did that idea originally come about, and what has it been like to do 27 times? We’ve always had an affinity with the city, and the audience has always been incredibly kind to us. However, playing there on St Patricks night was actually totally by accident. The Pogues had done it for a couple of years but there was one year where they couldn’t do it, Shane was particularly ill. They had to cancel. We got a phone call asking us if we’d like to step in and do it, and we did. We all had such a ball that we’ve kind of jealously guarded it ever since! It’s now ours, Shane is going to have to fight me for it now, as we’ve had it for such a long time. It’s something that we build our year around, and I know that it is something that a lot of the audience do as well. Every year it seems to go from strength to strength. I know it’s a bit like blowing your own trumpet, but yeah this year the tickets for it sold out in under two hours. It really has taken on a life of its own.
Looking back on 'No Going Back', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Stiff Little Fingers? I’m very happy with it for a number of reasons. The main one being, which has got nothing to do with how well it sold, or otherwise. It’s the fact we already had most of the songs written before I turned 50. When my 50th birthday happened we had two thirds of the songs for the album done. There were still some other ideas. It was basically a question of coming home after a large tour, dotting the eyes, crossing the ts and finishing off the last few songs that I had. Then the plan was to go into the studio. Now that was ten years ago, we already had five years from the ‘Guitar and Drum’ record. So the band were like “You’re going to go home, finish these songs off, and we’ll be looking to go into the studio in the Autumn”, and I said “Yeah, that sounds about right.” So I came home, and I sat down. The whole turning 50 was not weighing on my mind. My wife had thrown a big party, she made more of a fuss about it than I did, which kind of brought it to the forefront of my thinking. I sat down and listened to the home demos I’d made of all of the songs, and I realised that they just weren’t very good. They just didn’t reflect where I was as a person and as a songwriter at that time. They sounded like I was writing songs because I had to rather than I wanted to. I basically phoned the band up and said “I’m going to scrap all of these songs” and they were like “What do you mean?” and I just said, “They’re just not very good.” So basically I tore them all apart and I think I kept the song ‘Liar's Club’ and maybe the odd sort of little musical idea I kept from all of the others. I started writing songs, trying to be as honest as I could about where I was in my life, and those were the songs that came out. Of course then I sat down and listened to those before we recorded, and that took another five years. So we sat there and listened to those when I finished them, and I sort of realized that “You’re about to go and make an album, supposedly a punk rock record which is basically about a middle aged man who suffers from depression, he lost his home because of the recent banking collapse, his wife lost his job so we couldn’t afford our apartment”, and I thought “God, this is such a miserable/moaning record!” However, it was very cathartic for me to get it all out there. I thought “Who is going to want to listen to me moaning about how I can’t afford my mortgage!?” As it turned out, lots of people did. Again because we had never made “U2 money”, we have never been divorced from the same sort of lives that our audiences have. It didn’t occur to me, it was obvious looking back that our audience had been through exactly the same problems that I was going through. So I guess with having someone stand up on stage and yell about it, that you could yell along to is as cathartic for them as it was for me. It re-established my belief in myself as a songwriter. It also re-enforced the fact that all through my career I have always tried to be honest with what I’ve done. I reckon that by in a way being brave enough to put those songs out (even though that’s not a particularly brave thing to do, but you know what I mean), I think that gave us the confidence to move forward, and stick to our guns. Which is what we’ve always done.
Also last year you got to do your first live acoustic solo tour alongside Dropkick Murphys, Rancid, and The Selecter. So how did that idea come about, and what did you enjoy the most about doing that tour? Well, it wasn’t my idea to start with! It was Ken Casey from the Dropkicks who phoned me around this time of year. Back in the day I used to drink a hell of a lot, these days, I don’t at all. I still like to have a few beers, but not to the degree I used to. Ken managed to get a hold of me around the period of my birthday when some pals and I had gone out and had a couple of drinks. He basically said “Look, we’re going on tour with Rancid around the US, we’ve had this idea. Would you like to come along and open the show up?” He originally wanted me to do it with an electric guitar, and I didn’t see that working. So I got back to him and said “Yeah that sounds like a great idea, but do you mind if I do it with an acoustic?” and he said “Not at all!”, “Great, I’m in!”. I woke up the next morning and I asked my wife if I had agreed to go on tour with the Dropkick Murphys last night? She said “You thought it was a great idea last night?!” and I was like “Yeah, well I’m sober now!” It was nerve-racking, but it was a lot of fun. They really took care of me. Anything I needed I got. This was completely and utterly on my own. The Dropkicks and Rancid are of course a pretty big deal, this wasn’t just playing in front of a couple of hundred people at a local arts centre. You’re walking on stage in front of 10 – 12 thousand people a night. That was a bit daunting. It was alright once I was out there. Initially it was like “I’m just going to stand with my back to the audience while I tune my guitar up, I don’t really need to see them just yet!”
How did the pledge music campaign idea originally come about for it? We are a band, not a record company. We’ve done it twice now. We are still making mistakes but I think we’re getting slightly better at it. Again it came about mainly because I had taken so long to write a new set of songs. We have kind of always had a rolling agreement with EMI where we go away, write a ton of songs, and just go back to them when we’re ready. Put the record out, it was kind of a deal. Of course, by the time I got round to writing the songs that became ‘No Going Back’ there was a ten year gap. So by this time, pretty much everyone I knew at EMI had moved on. We didn’t know anybody there, we were just a name only signed to the record label, but we hadn’t had any contact with them in a long time. Our manager came up with the idea for the Pledge campaign. They said “Look we can take these songs to EMI, and if they pass on then you can keep going! We can go to Sony, Warners, whoever until somebody says yes! Or you can go down this road...” It appealed to us on a number of levels. Mainly it was a big step in terms of getting our independence back, not that we had a huge amount of interference from record labels. We had one or two things in the past that brought you up short, where you’d think “Hang on a minute, I don’t really want to do that, but the label wants to” This way, everything you did, you did it because you wanted to do it. Also it was nice in terms of it gave the audience an insight into how records are made. It made them part of the actual process. One of the things we did was we had people come and hang with us for a day while we were in the studio, making that record. That is an eye opener for them. When I was a kid I thought that the band just go in, set up, and that’s the record made. People come in and see you checking the sound of a kick drum for the entire day, they think “God this is boring!” and I’m like “Yeah I know!” it was a lot of fun from that point of view. Of course, the downside, to go right back to my initial point if you go to EMI and they pass on it, you go to Sony and pass on it, and you keep going until someone says yes. The one big possible drawback is if you go directly to your audience and say “We’d like to make a new album” and they say “Nah, we’re not really interested” then it’s game over, because there’s no where else you can go. So there was an element of “Please God let them think it’s a good idea!” At the end of the day, you’re pre-ordering a record that hasn’t been made yet, so it was nerve-racking from that point of view. Luckily the audience were keen on the idea. It also gave us a big sense of responsibility in the studio. Not that anybody goes into the studio to deliberately make a bad record, it was a case of “Well we are actually spending the audiences money here” it’s not like we’re going to be spending EMI’s money. There was none of that, it was a case of “Let’s make the best record we can, in themost economically way possible!”
Have you started work on any new material just yet, if so, what can we expect from it? Yeah, we’ve got a few songs that we are kind of happy with. Certainly on the UK leg of this tour. We are going to change the set considerably, there’s definitely going to be one brand new song that hasn’t seen the light of day which will be a part of the UK set. It’s getting to that stage again. Where’s it’s like “We have done the ‘No Going Back’ tour and the 40th Anniversary thing” it’s time to keep moving forward, to write another record.
How excited are you for your upcoming shows in May? Yeah, that’s going to be a lot of fun! Again like I said briefly we are doing the August thing back in Belfast again and the Buzzcocks and The Damned are coming over for that. That’s our own stand alone show. The other shows with The Beat, The Selector and The Buzzcocks are going to be a lot of fun as well. Again after this length of time we are all friends. I know people in all of those bands, Pauline and I did a couple of tours together before. I have probably known her for (she probably won’t thank me for reminding her) about forty years! Obviously we get along very well with the guys in The Buzzcocks, in particular Steve, he is a really nice guy. And I know Roger from The Beat. It was put to us as “It’s a May Bank Holiday, how do you feel about doing it with these guys?” we were like “Absolutely, sure, we are in!”
What else can we expect to see from Stiff Little Fingers in 2018? We don’t have as much touring to do this year, even though it’s already starting to fill up! I’d really like to spend a lot more time at home and finish writing. So that by September/October time we actually have enough songs that we can pick through for an album, and hopefully record that either right at the end of the year, or early next year. The touring part is probably still my most favourite part of my job. I like the instant feedback from the audience. I like playing live. I think like I said earlier. If you’re not writing, recording new stuff and moving forward. Then you run the risk of becoming a cabaret act. That’s something that we have always been aware of, and slightly afraid of. I think it’s important that we get some new material written and have one eye on going into the studio.
Interview with Ben
So, how did your recent UK tour go, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road here? Our most recent tour in the UK was very short but super fun! It was comprised of a few club shows, Reading and Leeds festival, and two very intimate acoustic shows. It was fun and interesting to do a tour that really spans such a wide range of performances. It feels really special to be able to play an iconic festival like RandL on a big loud stage in front of lots of people, but is a different type of thrill to strip everything back and play acoustic with no overdrive pedals or drums to hide behind. Highlights for me included playing ping pong against Jimmy Eat World members backstage at Reading, playing Brighton for the first time and seeing a bit of the coast, and eating full English breakfast at as many 'spoons as possible. We also went on this insane carnival ride at Reading festival that felt and sounded as though it was going to break. We were suspended upside down at numerous points during the ride, all while spinning around in a loose "basket" type apparatus. Feels good to tempt death every once in a while.
Looking back over your career, what festivals have you really enjoyed being a part of the most, and why? Since Reading and Leeds is the only international festival we've ever played, we have only US festivals to compare our experiences to. Riot Fest in the US is the most enjoyable fest stateside. It is run incredibly smoothly, and always has such an eclectic and interesting lineup. They do a great job to make everyone comfortable, performers and attendees alike.
So, looking back on the release of 'Spin', how happy have you been with the response to the record so far, and what do you think it has done for the band? We are thrilled with how the record turned out and how people are reacting to it. We have seen ‘spin’ reach a wider demographic of listeners than any record before, and it feels good to be 13 years into a band and still be acquiring new fans and gaining new opportunities. I think the record has done a lot for how the band is represented, specifically with cementing Brianna as a talented songwriter. She wrote songs for the first time ever and they turned out great.
What songs are you still really enjoying playing live from 'Spin' at the moment? At the time I'm answering this, the record hasn't even been out for a year, so all of it still feels pretty new. There are some songs from the record we haven't even had a chance to integrate into the live set yet, but lately we've really been feeling ‘June’ and ‘Window’. ‘June’ because it's felt great to see such a strong reaction to one of the first songs Brianna ever wrote, and ‘Window’ because we've been messing around with the dynamics of the live rendition and really turning it into a powerful performance no matter where it sits in the setlist.
It's been ten years since your self-titled second album came out. What do you remember the most about putting that record together, and how would you say it compares to anything else you've done? What was different about that record was, in the early days of the band, former member Adam and I had a pool of songs to choose from that were all in various stages of demo recordings, but that we had been playing at shows for 2 years at that point. We picked what we felt was a cohesive album out of those songs, and the rest were scrapped or recorded later for splits and eps. It was different from our other full lengths because the writing wasn't done with a full length in mind for Self-Titled. It was a collection of our best songs from the early days. I think it's far from a perfectly executed album, but it's got some sort of magic to it that has drawn people to it. I am so proud of that album and the fact that people still get so much from it.
So, how excited are you to be returning to the UK, and what can attending fans expect? We are very excited to come back! Fans can expect an energetic set filled with a wide variety of songs. Last time we toured, it came up quite a few times in conversation with people at shows that they want to hear a little more from the â€˜Two Worldsâ€™ album, so we've brushed up on a few songs we haven't played in years. We are trying to compile dynamic setlists that demonstrate the range of our songwriting and that span our whole 13 year career as a band.
Can you tell us a bit about what keeps you coming back to the UK? What do you enjoy the most about performing/touring here? The UK is an amazing place to visit and play. The punk music scene here is iconic, and if you can win over fans here, you know you're doing something right. UK music fans have a beautiful sense of honesty and musical integrity .. which is a nice way of saying they'll tell you if you suck. I appreciate that a lot. It just feels really special to get to travel and play original music, so we love having the opportunity to return to the UK this often.
What else can we expect to see from Tigers Jaw in 2018? We have a very busy year! The upcoming UK run in April is wedged in-between a US tour in Feb/March with Yowler and Looming, and a tour supporting Pennsylvania friends The Wonder Years alongside Tiny Moving Parts and Worriers (who are on our UK tour too!). Later this year we hope to keep busy on the road, hopefully getting more chances to travel abroad! Eventually we'll settle things down a bit and start writing again, but only when it feels right. Until then, we are very excited to get back on tour!
Interview with Dave
When I saw the title to your latest album it made me think of how you’ve sort of teased it over the years and now you’ve gone all in and called an album something like that! Yeah I’m at that time and the world is at that time where there isn’t a lot of money coming in for rock n roll. It’s not like the old days where you go and get a publishing contract for lots of money and people would bet on your music selling and making lots of people money not just you. Right now, music and publishing itself is worth less than it ever was before, the actual art is worth less. The tail is wagging the dog, it’s just the way the world has gone, intellectual property gets compromised so who cares? I’ve got nothing to lose, I’m not going to get played on the radio with the latest album title. It’s like the ship is sinking so screw it, there’s nothing to lose
With the changes in music, money wise, obviously there’s the rise in digital with Spotify, Apple Music etc, what other things behind the scenes would you put the dropin money down to? Mainly with everything being free. As great as the idea is, or at least less expensive obviously starting with Napster and then continuing on, there’s just less respect for that. In a better world yeah, art would be rewarded with some sort of a barter system where a great artist would be rewarded with food. “Continue with your art and we’ll give you some food” but 21st century is very much like the 20th century was in that respect, money still makes the world go around. I think when you take that out of it, the ability for people to be an artist 24/7, then you’re going to lose something. That is what’s happened, basically most people in the 21st century are used to massive amounts of entertainment for not a lot of money and that’s just the way it is. The quality of that stuff? There’s a lot of it but I don’t know if the quality is up to snuff. Western civilisation has proved once again, that they would rather have more than good. “We want more, just give us more”, so if you’re in a rock band today the you have to make a decision, do I go for everybody or just go for the people that you consider cooler or into you. Maybe it’ll work out better, hopefully there’ll be better music in the future, better art. It may be brief, and it may splutter out quick because the artist can’t really afford to maintain it, but anything is possible.
It’s an interesting subject, mentioning Napster it makes you think back to Lars Ulrich and Metallica when they got copped for going after Napster, do you think today it proves and vindicates what Metallica were doing back then? Oh yeah, of course they were right, but they got a bad rap. It’s one of those things where you have to explain to these people, the ones who idealise things, I love the ideal too, maybe Metallica went about it in a way that people thought seemed fascist and big corporate rock but they (Metallica) were absolutely right and you can’t give away stuff for free forever and expect the same amount of quality and production. As I said, in a better world sure, art would be rewarded. Some of the best rock we have ever seen in our lives and in history, has been this clash between creativity and commerce. It’s an explosion. People on the verge of selling out people, and then selling out and it working or not working, people rallying against the corporate system in a way that’s really interesting. Now that that is out of the picture, to me it just seems a little blasé. There’s no fight against seduction, there’s no fight against the corporate, it’s like, people have just bent over and realised that okay, rock n roll doesn’t have much of a chance with corporate at all. Like we’ve been corporatized but we’re down on the third or fourth wrung of the ladder and big pop is here to stay. That’s it, big pop is it. That goes straight to the kids every where and the kids have proven it again and again and that’s why kids aren’t coming back to rock, it doesn’t offer them anything they can recognise.
Well I can identify with that, I have an 8-year-old and you try to play different things, but you just can’t get them round to it! No, they just can’t dig it and it’s not their fault. This kind of stuff, people say to me, “The kids will find their way” and a certain amount of them do and they are guided through a certain standard of quality through rock journalism or just some sort of centre to rail against. Kids usually pick the brightest shiniest thing from the get go and now they are being offered, just a tray of desserts. There’s more to pick from than ever and they are very finely designed desserts. They’re going to pick the one with the biggest cherry on top with the most psychologically sophisticated marketing. You can’t beat that, there’s no way. I don’t have enough faith in humans to beat it, I do have faith in a small amount of people that will continually get smarter and smarter about this new age and try to carve out some sort of territory that will recognise quality. Not in niche, not just the metal world will it just define what their idea of quality is, and the rock world do the same. There will be enough people who are educated enough and opinionated enough to carve out a place on the internet or whatever and say, “This is a barrier of quality, we’re going to give you the latest PJ Harvey album and the latest Metallica album.” “We’re not going to sit in our little bubbles and act like a bunch of fools”. That’s what they’ve done for the last 10 years, I mean the internet is a mess.
When did work begin on your latest album? I wrote it quite a while ago, really quickly. 2016, I came back from a tour in Europe and sat down in the July and wrote the thing in about three weeks, all the music not the lyrics, that’s how I do it. I wrote abut 30 pieces of content, choruses, verses and bridges really quickly, like three a day. Threw out all the fat and had about 10 songs and thought “Okay, here we go.” I then sat on it because of scheduling problems, I only brought it to the band about four months later and to Bob (Pantella – drums) about four months after that then worked out the drum parts. We then recorded it very quickly but then it sat again, done, because of scheduling problems, record company scheduling problems, the same old blah blah blah. So, it probably should have been out early 2017 but that’s all water under the bridge. It didn’t take long to make. The most time we took on this thing was actually in pre-production, meaning sitting there going over and over how it was going to be played when we got in the studio, like drums, we have to get the swing right because this is all stuff that’s different from the last bunch of material etc. This is more song oriented, like big choruses, things have got to be a little tighter. It’s almost like pop in a way, you have to take a different attitude.
Lyrics have always been an enjoyable part of Monster Magnet, what is some of the subject matter on this one? Well it’s weird, I went in there saying to myself I was going to write a sex, drugs and rock n roll record because I haven’t written one like that. In the last few years it’s been very psychedelic and melancholy, like a weird observation on 21st century living including weird relationships, on other planets of course, but it definitely came out a lot more melancholy so I wanted to write a rock n roll record. Write 10 short songs, go out there and kick some ass and then what happened was Trump got elected and inaugurated. I couldn’t walk away from that. I just thought man this is really nuts. It looked like the whole world was taking a right turn. I couldn’t get this out of my head, I didn’t want to write a political album, I wouldn’t want to be that involved in politics anyway, it’s kind of a game. At the same time, you can’t deny, you can’t walk from 2017 into 2018 and pretend nothing is wrong. I’m just not that good of a writer, I mean I can’t write a metal fantasy record or a glory rock record in the middle of all of this. I mean it’s more than politics because we’re in this crazy time. So I tried to write the songs that I set out to do, write about this girl I knew, quite a decent thing to write about, a time-honoured tradition but through those lyrics come the end of the world, there’s lots of mentions of truth on the album. There’s a couple of pointed things that are obvious like the world’s messed up but most of the time it’s an attitude of “Here’s a guy who tried to write a good time rock n roll record, but he couldn’t keep it out.”
A question I like to ask of musicians of a certain generation is about social media and I know it has its pros but what do you think are the cons, not just for bands but individuals going forward? Well, I’m not a big fan of it. When it came around I tried it, like everybody else and I just went all in eventually, for me, it was just a big waste of my time. I was spending a lot of time trying to contact people I don’t know and will never really know, playing this kind of weird game of “I like you and you like me.” Which was a fun game, but it is still a game, so I was like, “No thanks.” I want to live life, I want to ride my bike, I want to go out in the woods, touring my rock band and write songs, read books and watch movies. There is no way on earth I am going to dedicate more than say 15 minutes of my life to something like this. It just doesn’t make sense, or at least I don’t think it makes sense. I still don’t think it makes sense and I think it is going to go down in history as the perfect example of what happens when you give adults toys which affect their identity so much that they can actually look the other way while someone like Donald Trump gets elected president. Basically, they’re just looking the other way. Sure, you can make yourself a superstar, the 21st century is all about making yourself a celebrity. Screw them, you can be your own celebrity, a minor one of course and a desperate one. It’s turning people into desperate minor celebrities, “Please like me and I will work on my photo so hard, I’ll look so good that I will be embarrassed to meet you in person because I could never look as good as the photo I just got.” It’s crazy, man, it’ll take them years to get this right and I am too far advanced in my opinions in life to jump into something like this. You know what? I’m like my father, he said “I’ll wait for them to perfect the colour TV before I buy one, I’ll join in when you’ve got it right.”
In this modern day, as someone who worked with analogue, how does making an album today compare to when you made say ‘Spine of God’? It’s easier, easier in as much as you can cover up mistakes easier. You don’t have to have everybody completely on board to pull it off, you can have more and more sections than ever before, so you can put it together one way or the other. What you lose though, is the preparedness of a whole band being ready to perform right away. I can’t tell which way I like better, there’s things about today which I love, it’s awesome but at the same time, you’ve lost a certain glory of the fact of “All you guys better get it right or you can just sit here for 26 hours and get it right”, you don’t have to do that anymore. You can hear in a lot of records that things are just pieced together beat by beat.
Interview with Keith
So, how did you get to the album title 'Megaplex' and what does it mean to you guys? A megaplex is a huge compound of units collected into one massive, presumably more powerful entity. The United States, especially, is just full of these kinds of places: shopping malls, office complexes, movie theaters. We just really liked the idea that this album was itself a megaplex; that each of the already-potent songs is being assembled into this greater beast of an album. Also, we as a band really love going to the cinema. There’s nothing better when you need to kill time on tour than to realize that there’s a huge megaplex right down the road from your venue. That is true salvation.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Megaplex'? I guess one of the big themes on the record is “decisiveness.” Some of the songs express that very literally; ‘Properties of Perception’ is about trying to figure out whether to leave New York City. Every New Yorker wants to get the hell out of town, eventually, but once you’ve lived in this town it’s hard to figure out where else you might go – for all of its flaws, it’s just too sweet a place to leave. Other songs, like ‘Heart Is A Weapon’. are a little more metaphorical about the whole thing; that one’s about wondering about getting out of a situation but also conceding the near-fatal allure that it has for you. ‘One In, One Out’ is about general prioritizing, and other songs, like ‘Now or Never’ or ‘K.I.T.’ are about being wishy-washy in the face of needing to pull the trigger on something. So, yeah: I can be very indecisive and vacillate about things if I don’t check myself. These songs are a good reminder for me.
With this album you said that "This time, we really wanted to drop a fun-bomb", so can you maybe elaborate on this, and how the music compares to anything else you guys have ever done? I mean, all of our albums are definitely aimed at being as deliciously poppy as possible. On ‘Megaplex’, we really wanted to shrug off any genre-based shackles that we may have previously felt regarding our approach to songwriting. A few of these songs are the closest we’ve ever gotten to pursuing straight-up Top 40-style production, and it was fun to see how malleable our songs really are; it doesn’t really take much to transform a We Are Scientists song from a rock song into a pop song.
What was it like to work with Max Hart once more, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Max is the best, and it was really awesome to record with him a second time. We’ve been friends with him forever - he played keyboards with us on tour in 2008 and we’ve been close ever since – so we’ve already got an easy shorthand vernacular, with him. It’s nice that we can dive into making an album together already knowing each other’s tastes and talents. He knows when I’m being lazy as a songwriter or arranger, and I know when he’s spending too much time screwing around with one analog synth sound for days at a time. He’s pretty much just another version of Chris or I, if we had the patience to sit in a studio for several weeks, just chopping up waveforms. We do not.
How did the cool music video for 'One In One Out' come together, and what was it like to work with Jed Mitchell? Jed’s also an old friend of ours – he worked on a couple of videos for songs off of ‘Helter Seltzer’. When we were beginning to think of video concepts for this album, we first asked Jed if there were any weird, idiosyncratic visual technologies that he’d been messing around with. He mentioned this crazy motioncapturing infrared-scanning tech he’d been playing with. It’s kind of too ugly to use in any real-world capacity other than a We Are Scientists video, where we tend to say “The weirder, the better.” I don’t know of any circumstance in which that exact camera has been used with that precise software in that specific way, before. We’ve dubbed the resulting forms “Jed Shells,” and we’re delighted that Jed seems to have picked up on that usage, as well.
You said that you had 90 songs ready for this album! So can you tell us about that process of getting it down to the ones you wanted to use for 'Megaplex'? The process has always involved dumping a bunch of demos for partially written tunes on Max and Chris and Keith Carne and just letting them choose which ones they think works. One of the hardest aspects of writing songs is remaining objective about which ones are of actual quality or not – in the past, favourite songs of mine have been roundly panned by everyone else and have thus been relegated to the dumpster. Both Chris and I have been writing like crazy since we recorded ‘Helter Seltzer’, and it was cool to end up with such a huge catalog of songs to choose from. It definitely is painful to have to cut so much material that I like, but we’re brutally fixated on the idea that an album should only consist of 10 songs, and no more. It just feels right to us. So yeah, there are still a few really awesome songs from this batch that I hope will turn up somewhere else, sometime. This album is simply composed of the ones that we were all the most immediately excited about and which sat well together, as a single megaplex.
So, what was the hardest part about putting 'Megaplex' together for you guys, and why? We were somewhat hamstrung by Max’s schedule; he was on tour with another band sporadically throughout the autumn of last year, while we were trying to record. As such, our recording schedule was broken up much more than we would’ve liked. We did the drums in one chunk, then spent a few weeks waiting for Max and fiddling around and around. Then, we recorded a bunch of guitars and vocals, and then again waited a few weeks while Max left town. Then, we added a bunch of bells and whistles and fine-tune things in one last session. In some ways, it was nice to have those breaks – Chris and I spent a lot of time messing around with arrangement ideas and synth sounds and extra guitar parts and tones. In some ways, it probably made Max’s life a lot more hellish – he would come back from a few weeks of tour and be confronted with all this crap we’d added to the songs. He probably wanted to pull his hair out.
How did the artwork for 'Megaplex' come together, and what does it mean to you guys? All of those elements were originally Jed Shells that we’d made with Jed, our video director. He showed us a variety of things that he could do with his technology and we just fell in love with some of the weird visuals. We sent them over to Dylan Haley, who’s done the artwork on our past three albums, and he was just a genius. He messed around with these crazy, raw visuals we’d sent him and transformed them into things of beauty.
Looking back on 'Helter Seltzer', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of We Are Scientists? We still love it; ‘Helter Seltzer’ and ‘Megaplex’ feel like two of a kind to me. I feel like they sort of represent the next stage, for the band; they both have a bunch of rock songs, per usual, but they also have some tasty, poppy sonic explanations, for us. I think we’re much, much more confident as songwriters these days, and we want to give our songs the arrangements we feel their big hooks deserve.
Photo credit: Steve Lewington
Also, it's been ten years since the release of 'Brain Thrust Mastery', so looking back on this album, what do you remember the most about putting this record together, and how would you say it still compares to anything else you guys have done? That record was the first time we ever really tried to be interesting with our arrangements and production. I listen back to it now and there’s some weird, cool stuff on there. It’s a pretty huge leap from our first record which was just all one guitar, one bass, drums and some vocals. I vividly remember when Tom Smith from Editors first heard it and told me that he thought it was a very “brave” record. I guess “brave” can be considered a pejorative word when you’re making pop, but I think it would have been cowardly to simply make another record that sounded exactly like our scrappy, bare-bones debut. So ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’ was a big leap, for us.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We’re always really excited for tour; when I think about being in We Are Scientists, I mainly think about us as a live act. Writing songs is my favourite part of being a musician, and recording with these guys is always thrilling, but I really feel like “We Are Scientists” when Chris and I are up on stage, playing loud rock music and joking in-between songs with one another. Fans can probably expect a little theatricality this time around – I think one thing that’s nice about a We Are Scientists show is that, unlike when you see a band that just shows up and plays their songs (no matter how well), We Are Scientists fans are always getting a very different show, as a function of our interest in interacting with one another and with the audience. Few things are as disheartening as seeing a live band and hearing the same, phone-in between-song patter every night. Look, we know how to practice our songs so that we play them well – those are the basics that a band should bring to a live show. We always feel like we have to be actively entertaining. People came to our party; we’re the hosts. It’s our job to make sure our crowd has fun.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? Pairing up with friends always makes a tour a highlight. The NME tour we did with Arctic Monkeys and Mystery Jets was great; we did a co-headlining tour with Art Brut on our first record that was incredible. Maybe the most fun we’ve had on tour was a co-headlining trip we took with our friends Ash. We’ve been pals for a long time, but this was the first time we’d really been on the road together — we shared a bus and drove all over Europe. We ended each show by playing an encore together, as a supergroup (a megaplex?), doing a set of cover songs that expanded each night. By the end of the tour, I think we were doing something like 10 or 12 cover songs together as WASH – we were covering bands like The Smiths, The Cure, Weezer, Marilyn Manson. I think the encore cover set actually ended being longer than either of our own bands’ sets.
What else can we expect to see from We Are Scientists in 2018? I think you can just probably expect us to become the biggest band in the world.
Interview with Monique
Can you tell us how Save Ferris originally got together? We all came from bands playing in the OC ska scene in â€˜95.
How did the unique sound of Save Ferris originally come about? We really were a product of our scene! All the musicians of the 3rd wave inspired each other.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in California? Exciting of course!! Everything happened so fast...and we were so young...
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you had the potential to make a career out of music? Thatâ€™s all I wanted to do, so when Save Ferris got together, that was our main goal. By working together, and working hard we were able to achieve that within 1-2 years of being a band.
Looking back on 'Checkered Past' how happy have you been with the response to it, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Save Ferris? The response has been incredibly positive, so much so that bunches of people that are new to seeing Save Ferris live know every word.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Checkered Past' at the moment, and why? ‘New Sound’ and ‘Anything’ and ‘Do I Even Like You’ are songs we consistently add to the set. They’re crowd pleasers!
How did you end up working with Neville Staple for 'New Sound', and can you tell us a bit about what he was like to work with? I had the honour of getting to know and play with the Specials in the 90s, and Nev and I maintained a friendship through the years, so working with him was a perfect idea! And his contribution was priceless.
How did you originally decide to work with Pledge Music for 'Checkered Past', and what was that whole process like for you? It wasn’t easy, I was afraid we wouldn’t hit the goal because I honestly thought everyone had just forgotten about us after all these years. We had to work with some form of crowdfunding in order to make this EP without the financial funding from a label. We almost doubled our expectations!
It's been twenty years since 'It Means Everything' came out! Looking back on this album, what do you remember the most about putting it together, and how do you think it still compares to anything else Save Ferris have done? I just remember feeling like anything was possible when we recorded that record. We had been signed by a major label by an A&R person that had a prominent position at Epic records. We had an insane budget to record the album with, and as a result were able to record in some of the most famous recording studios in the world. I really felt like I had made it, that all my dreams are coming true at this point. I’ll be honest with you, it’s not my favourite Save Ferris record even though I love it. My favourite is the EP we put out independently, before we were signed, the first little body of work for Save Ferris. I love the production on that first EP. It’s so simple, and I can hear the details of our youth. It epitomizes the 3rd wave sound for me.
Have you started work on any new material just yet, if so, what can fans expect from it? Yes I have started working on a new full length record, release date to be determined. I’m still in the early stages, but the musical concept is going to elevate the sound of the band to a new level while still keeping the heart and soul of the sound intact.
How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? I’m beyond myself with excitement. Save Ferris has not been back to Europe I think, since 9/11/2001. It was a very sad ending to an incredible era. I can’t wait to come back to the UK under better circumstances.
For us in the UK can you tell us what Warped Tour is like to be a part of, and why it's a shame for you to see it go? When I first played Warped in 1998 the touring music festival thing was still relatively new in America. All of these years later it has become the longest running North American Music festival in history. The end marks the end of an era, and I feel honoured that I could have been a part of it in any way. It will forever be etched in the musical history books in this country.
What else can we expect to see from Save Ferris in 2018? More great shows, Save Ferris’ first live record and hopefully, our first full length album since ‘Modified’!
Looking back on ‘Walk The Plank’, 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 Zebrahead? ‘Walk the Plank’ has been well received and we are proud of the album. It’s a little heavier than some of our previous releases and we wrote and recorded the songs with that goal in mind. We always try and change up our sound with each album but we also know that because we have a singer and a rapper in the band, we have a unique blend of punk and hip hop that is unique to us. In that way it is very representative of the Zebrahead sound.
What songs are you still enjoying performing live from 'Walk The Plank' right now, and why? We haven’t been playing many shows recently as we have been finishing up our new album ‘Happily Never After’. We try and change up our set as much as we can knowing that there are certain songs fans really appreciate. The passed few tours we have been interchanging ‘Who Brings a Knife to a Gun Fight’, ‘Worse than This’, ‘Keep it to Myself’ and ‘So What’ throughout the set. It really depends on what we aren’t sick of playing at the time.
It's been ten years since the release of 'Phoenix', what do you remember the most about putting that record together, and how would you say it still compares to anything else you guys have done before? We recorded that album at Maple Studios in Costa Mesa, California with our old friend Cameron Webb. I remember watching surf videos in the front lounge as others tracked guitars in the back room. I think our ‘Phoenix’ album is the closest thing to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ album and Ed our drummer dances better than MJ.
What did you find the most rewarding about working with Cameron Webb & Howard Benson? I think we learned a lot from both of those guys. Howard really taught us about song structure and really focused on melody and great harmonies. Cameron was great with guitar tones and drum sounds. We really took a lot away from our experiences working with both of them.
How did the 'The Bonus Brothers' release come together, and for those that haven't picked it up just yet, what can they expect from this compilation record? We had a few songs that were released in Japan as bonus tracks from previous albums and had fans telling us that since they didn’t live in Japan, it was hard for them to get. We decided to put all those songs together and release them as the ‘Bonus Brothers’ album. You can expect these songs to get you laid and make you the most popular person in church, while also making you grow three inches taller on average!
Interview with Ali
Have you guys started work on any new material just yet, if so, how is it coming along, and what do you think fans can expect from it? Funny you should ask. We just finished a new album called ‘Happily Never After’ that will be released late this summer. It’s a very high energy album and I’m stoked for everyone to hear it.
How excited are you for your upcoming slot at Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? We love playing Slam Dunk and can’t wait to see everyone at the show. It’s going to be a big party so bring your green hat!
What memories do you have from playing Slam Dunk Festival over the years? Slam Dunk Festival always brings back great memories. Whether it’s watching fans throwing up on each other in Leeds, to naked skanking in Birmingham, to the famous “Three Questions” game in Hatfield…it’s always a blast and a HUGE party.
What do you think makes Slam Dunk Festival so important to the alternative music scene in the UK? I wish there were more festivals like Slam Dunk. There are not many punk and ska festivals in other parts of the world that create a show like this annually. It’s a great venue for having a community that has the love for punk music come together and have a great time watching some really cool bands and making new friends that are into the same music you are.
What else can we expect to see from Zebrahead in 2018? We are going to play Warped Tour Japan in early April, then Slam Dunk in May. Our new album comes out at the end of summer and we will continue to tour all over the world.
Interview with Josh Can you tell us how The Skints originally got together? Friends at school. The most primitive and pure of band formations.
How did the unique sound of The Skints originally come about? A blend of four individuals with a shared love of different music, vibes, culture and energy on a mission to make the music and be the band we would want to hear.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in London? For us it was very normal, as it was all we knew, but I don't think we really understood how lucky we were to have immediate access to so much going on and so many places to play until we started playing outside the city and meeting bands who maybe have one, or sometimes zero, venues in their town that they can play. Not that everyone instantly wanted to book us, but when it comes to this country and music, the hub is London.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you had the potential to make a career out of music? I don't think it was any one moment, but I think just opening up for bigger bands as we've gone on, ie people who already have musical careers and thinking "Yeah, if these lot can do it then so can we."
Looking back on 'FM' how happy have you been with the response to it, and what do you think it's done for the representation of The Skints? Yeah, in the last three years since its release it's grown the band to a fully global audience. It's not anything that's happened through press or radio, it's purely through the people, and the album just spreading and us touring as hard as we can. I'd like to think in terms of representation it's made us a world class band, as it's taken us to the US, Canada, Japan and beyond and we can step on any stage and mash it down.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'FM' at the moment, and why? ‘Tazer Beam’ is always fun. Looking at people’s faces when the bassline happens.
Have you started work on any new material just yet, if so, what can fans expect from it? Yeah we've started working on our new album, which we are hoping to get out this year. I don't think it's what anyone's expecting. We are travelling through time and space on this one. The Skints past and The Skints future, as well as the pasts and futures of various alternate realities.
How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? We're actually buzzing for Slam Dunk, it's been a really long time. Also there's a bunch of friends playing, so it's going to be a long weekend of laughs. It’s going to be our first shows back in 2018 after our longest road break ever, so we're going to be fully recharged and ready to have a nice time.
Why do you think Slam Dunk Festival is so important to the festival scene here in the UK? Slam Dunk is important because it's a really good balance of punk-INFLUENCED music from across the spectrum, from the super hardcore to ska and everything in-between. I always felt like it was the closest thing to a Warped Tour we had in the UK. The main reason it's important, and I can't stress this enough, is the independent nature and nurture of this festival, and the youth need to take note of that. I hail up Ben Ray, and send him respect every time on its growth and showing the value of building something from a core group of people.
It looks like you pull in HUGE crowds at Boomtown Festival. How fun is to play there, and what's the diverse festival like to be a part of? Yeah, Boomtown is a very different world to Slam Dunk, and although we can comfortably play both, I'd say Boomtown is more firmly our realm. It's totally mental, I'd recommend anybody who is looking for a new musical experience to go. Again, another great independent festival that we've had the pleasure of playing over a number of years and watching grow. Big up Kaptin and all of the Boomtown crew.
What else can we expect to see from The Skints in 2018? Magic, mystery, adventure, creativity and radical expression. And a new album, hopefully.
How is your current tour going in the states, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road so far? Tour has been amazing! Weâ€™ve been out with neck Deep a bunch of times in the past and always had a great time. Highlights have been hanging out with Seaway and Speak Low. Getting to know those guys has been great.
How crazy is it for you guys to be so far away from home, and still have people sing along to your music? Anytime we play a show and people sing the words itâ€™s very humbling. To be so far away from home and to experience a similar connection to fans in America is incredible.
Interview with William
So, looking back on 'Eternity, in Your Arms', how happy are you with the response to the record so far, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Creeper? I suppose looking back on the first year of the album, it’s completely transformed the band. For it to be so highly reviewed is something we’ve been taken back by. The connection between the record and fans is staggering. That’s always paramount when we are creating anything. To see it succeed in such a great way is one of the greatest rewards of the past year.
Also, how did your UK headline tour go in December, and what did you enjoy the most about those set of dates? The headliner was the perfect way to finish 2017. It surpassed all of our expectations. To be able to bring elements of production to match the theatrical parts of the band is something we’ve wanted for so long. Finishing the tour in Southampton (our hometown) in the biggest venue in the city was one of the greatest achievements imaginable. The support on that run, Microwave, Can’t Swim, and Nervus were awesome and such a great addition to that tour.
So how did the idea for the book 'The Last Days of James Scythe' come together, and can you tell us a bit about what that was like to work on? When we were putting together ideas at the very beginning of Creeper, one of our biggest influences and things that we wanted to do was put out something like The Blair Witch Project - A Dossier. The book took the themes of the film and presented them as if they were fact. The story was told through a series of documents and interview rather than in the way of a conventional novel or screenplay. Over the course of the ‘Eternity’ album cycle we’ve implemented similar techniques in terms of promotional strategy, our story telling craft, our music, our live performance, and our branding. The chance to return the material to its original form was something that was very appealing to us. To be inspired by something in print which we then have used as in our art across multiple forms of media, and then return it to the form in which it came.
For those that might be unaware, can you tell us a bit more about how it relates to your music? It is in the nature of our band to build something more than an album. We are trying to build something for our audience to escape to. In a world that is darker than ever it is of the upmost importance to have a place for people to draw breath. The power of music is such that you can almost fully disappear into the record. The same goes for a book, for a film, for art in general. If you asked a fan of Creeper what the meaning of the concept around it was you would receive a different answer every time. This is intentional but by the same token it makes it impossible to summarize the connection between these things as it will be very upon interpretation. The book much like any of our other outputs is a series of hints and clues that relate to the narrative of the album.
How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? We’re incredibly excited! Last year was Warped Tour, as great as that was, we were all a little bummed out that we missed Slam Dunk last year! Slam Dunk was one of the first festivals we ever played as a band. This year to return as a main stage band is an incredible honour. We will be bringing ‘EIYA’ to life and it’s something we’re very excited to be doing.
Why do you think festivals like Slam Dunk are so important to the alternative rock scene in the UK? In the UK we are in a crisis point of small venue closures. We’ve always had such an exciting scene in our country and it seems it’s harder for younger bands to break through. It seems as if the cards are stacked against them. What I like about SD is the opportunities it presents to up and coming artists by putting them alongside bigger acts and playing to new audiences.
What else can we expect to see from Creeper in 2018? 2018 we are just finishing this US Tour with Neck Deep, we are going home to do the arena tour with All Time Low, and performing on the European festival circuit.
Interview with Brandon
How has your tour with Black Veil Brides & Asking Alexandria been going so far, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? It’s been great so far! I can give you the opposite of highlights. Our bus broke down a couple of days ago, and we got a laptop stolen. But other than that the tour has been really great! After a month in everyone’s feeling comfortable. It’s always weird the first couple of weeks of tour because you’re getting back into the swing of things, and trying to figure out what set list works. A lot of the fans coming out to these shows don’t really know who we are so it’s been fun having to prove ourselves.
Looking back on the release of 'Retrograde', how happy have you been with the response to the album so far? It was the exact reaction we wanted. We wanted people to be shocked, because that’s what we do every album. We do something that no one expects. I think it’s lame when bands put out the exact same stuff every album. There’s nothing wrong with having a sound though, and I think we’re just now starting to figure out and shape what our sound is 3-4 albums in. All we know is we like the shows to be hype, so this new stuff we’ve been writing is going to be centered more for the live performance.
What songs are you still enjoying performing live from 'Retrograde’? We like to throw in ‘Are You Coming With Me’, ‘Zero’, ‘Hologram’ and ‘Aftermath’. Those songs seem to go over the best live. We always try out different songs to see what gets the best reactions before we permanently put them into our set list.
It's been a pretty intense year for you guys. So what has it been like with the new lineup adjustment, most notably with Andy taking on the lead vocals? It was a pretty crazy transition. The band originally was a 7 piece back when we first started in 2010. Now we’re a 4 piece. Honestly though it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to us. Everyone stepped up to do more, we became closer as a band, and now we’ve had people say we’ve never sounded this good live before. I think we’re on the right track now. I’m super proud of Andy for stepping it up like he has. Tree and I also took up a lot of vocals to fill everything out.
Have you started work on any new material just yet, if so, what do you think we can expect from it? We have a new song done! And we are just starting to write for the album. I don’t want to say anything yet because it’s a little early in the game.
How excited are you for your upcoming slot at Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? We’re so stoked! It’s been so long since we’ve played the festivals. We’re glad we got invited back out. Fans can always expect a hype set.
For those attending Slam Dunk reading this that might not of heard Crown The Empire just yet. What one song of yours would recommend they check out? We’ll most likely be playing a new song during the festivals...so be on the lookout for that one! But for those who have never heard of us, ‘Zero’ is a banger. ‘Hologram’ and ‘Machines’ are also some of our favourites. I think those 3 encompass a lot of what our band sounds like and what we stand for.
Looking back over your career, what other music festivals have really stood out? We’ve played Warped Tour three times now so that festival sticks out to us more than anything. When you spend that much time on a summer tour it becomes a part of your life.
What band would you say you learnt the most from whilst touring with them, and why? Back when we first started touring we did a tour with The Used and We Came As Romans. We were such a new band and those two really took us under their wings during the tour and treated us right. From then on we’ve always tried to do the same to bands we tour with.
What else can we expect to see from Crown The Empire in 2018? Touring, touring, new music, touring touring...and probably more touring.
So when and how did you first get into playing music? Well I started taking piano lessons when I was aged 5 and that was the beginning of it all. I had of course been aware of music in a peripheral sense. And my father was taking piano lessons at the time I was born, although he didn’t pursue it seriously. Then there was a piano in the house for as long as I could remember, and there was always music being played. I was drawn to it, and that’s how it all started.
Can you tell us about some of your influences growing up? The piano first and foremost. The piano teachers I had were the most influential aspect. I was learning how to play piano, and learning about music, at the same time I was learning how to read/write/ride a bike/maths problems. So it was a very fundamental aspect of my life. It was inseparable from all these other fundamental experiences. In its own way it became influential onto itself.
What was it like to be an upcoming act in New York? Well I moved to New York when I was 18 with all sorts of different ideas about what I was going to do, but none of them had anything to do with music. I never ever really thought about becoming what you’d call a professional musician. Or playing as a frontman in a band. I’d already played music with friends, and done all kinds of recordings. It was always for fun, and it had never crossed my mind to do it as a career. I was more interested in things that were quite far removed from the music business. As a career, I was interested in going to college, or doing painting, or doing fashion design. Fashion design was why I moved to New York! I got a job in that world which lasted two months, so when that all fell apart, it became clear that all my dreams that had driven me to New York were all just a way of getting me there. Now that I had gotten there these new ideas started to present themselves, and that’s when this inclination towards doing music as a career started to present itself. I was still sceptical, as it was something that I never really thought about doing at that level, it wasn’t necessarily something I was interested in. Then it took over my whole mind. I always thought that in life you dreamed up what you wanted to do, it never occurred to me that what I was meant to do might not line up with what I wanted to do. It was a really confusing time. However, I turned myself over to that, and then it all kicked in really quick.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you could make a career out of music? I still haven’t realised that I can do it as a career. Every day it seems like it is all going to fall apart. With this kind of work it’s a delicate experience which unfortunately you can’t rely on. No matter how long you have even worked at it, how much experience you had, or success you had/have. It has very little bearing on what is going to come. It’s rarely ever felt like a career to me. It’s more like “Okay, I’ve gotten away with doing it for one more day, I wonder if I’ll be able to do it tomorrow?” After you string enough of those days together you realise that you did that for a whole year, and then you think “Maybe I’ll be able to do that again”. A career usually has a sense of stability. It allows you to not rest, but sink into the position that you’re in with a kind of confidence. I haven’t experienced that with this work at all.
Let's fast forward to last year then. Touring wise, what did you get up to in 2017, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? I really love touring, and always have. I’ve grown to love it more. It’s surprising to me, based on what I’ve heard from other people that have toured a lot. What I heard from people in the early days who told me that I wouldn’t like touring, and that touring sucks. That they don’t enjoy it. It was something that I really liked right away. This last tour that we just did a few months ago was the best and most enjoyable tour I ever did. It was one of the most challenging tours I have ever done, both technical and emotional. There’s something deeply fulfilling about that type of work. I really enjoyed touring, and it’s amazing that we’ve gotten to tour so much over the years. I have gotten to tour in different capacities. I am always trying to learn more about how I can do it better and better.
What do you enjoy the most about producing your own music, and how would you say that process has changed for you over the years? I have tried to do things differently over the years. Thinking that I would learn something from that. What I learned from doing things differently was that I should do things the way that I think I should do them. There have often been times where I have contradicted my traditional approach and gone against my instincts/my style of work. It’s just what you imagine it to be. It’s frustrating, it’s a waste of time, it creates complications for no reason. Sometimes you feel like you need to prove that to yourself. If only you understood that you should do things the way that work for you. Sometimes I felt like I needed to be absolutely sure of that by doing the opposite or a different approach. I guess what’s nice now is that I can say with full confidence that my mode of working is effective with what I am trying to do. I don’t need to question it any more, go against it, or experience anything different. There’s pressure that’s easy to put on yourself, to do what you think will be expanding your mind, expanding your horizons, having different experiences. There’s also the reality of it all, with the limited amount of time, energy and resources that any person has in their life. If you have a method of working that works for you then it’s not necessarily beneficial to try something else. I feel glad with the way that I work, and get the results that I need to get.
How did you get to the album title 'You're Not Alone', and what does it mean to you? To me it just means that there is a presence that’s present in life. This presence is not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. The title itself is also very generic. Sometimes those very straight forward statements contain within them the possibility of many points of view or different interpretations. It can feel quite comforting to imagine the idea that you’re not alone. It can also be quite unnerving/frightening to realise that you’re not alone. There might be times where you might want to be alone, and realise that you’re not. There could be a presence around you, another being near by you, that you might not want to be there. It might have bad intentions. It’s the idea of presence. The title was suggested by my manager after he listened to the album, I never would of thought of that title. Once he said it, it started to make sense in a strange way. He came with it at the very end of the recording process. There was no concept going into this album, with the writing of the songs or even the lyrics. There was no over arching theme that I was trying to work in. We were just trying to work and let the theme present itself to you at the end. There’s hope that some people can hear it coming out of it.
On the track 'Ever Again' there's the line "they say that nobody changes, but I'm living proof that they do", so can you elaborate on that, and maybe what that track means to you personally? Well the song doesn’t mean that much to me personally because it’s not coming from a personal experience. It’s coming from desire. I haven’t had these experiences, being able to change for example or having the answer. I would like to, so I am fantasying, imagining and dreaming about how great it would be to feel that way. That’s the same generally with all the music that I make. It’s not talking about my own personal experiences that I have already had, it’s talking about how I wish I felt. A lot of songs are about what people went through, but I don’t want to talk about that. Wallowing in the negativity. So I try to focus on how I wish I would feel. That’s quite uplifting for me, to get to focus on those themes. That lyric, there are many people that believe it’s impossible to change and I have always wondered about that, I think points should be corrected. The parts which they are mistaken, even if it’s not possible to change it’s still worth trying to do. It’s giving up on improving or becoming a better person. It’s really a cop out, saying that “No one can change” so just do the worst job that you can because it’s not worth doing anything else? So it’s thinking about that, and those particular people. I don’t know if I’ve changed, but it would be nice to think that I have in ways. In other ways I haven’t really changed at all, maybe that’s good, maybe it’s not. There’s another way you can take that line as well. Which is “They say that nobody changes, and I’m living proof that they do” can mean that I’m living proof that they say that nobody changes. I try to write a lot of these lyrics to be equally true in two opposite ways.
Ye thr ide sug to d the do any pa sai on tur the op
Th go ver rea the this wh tho ima
I ju bec abo kin be ima out ha
I ju to c use tha sto itâ€™s
Ia Iâ€™m dis mo a lo
e enjoyed the short monologues between the tracks, they were pretty inspiring. So how d the idea for those parts come together?
ah that was quite nerve-racking for me. That was actually an idea suggested by a women that I work with ough my manager. I have a great team, and they often have these ideas. A lot of times when someone has an ea that you cringe at I’m always interested in it. You’re almost scared by the idea. This women Karen ggested if I did these three short motivational speeches and put them on the album. I never would of thought do that because it was very exposed. It’s hard to explain, I was just really scared by that idea. I put it off until e very end. Literally at the final moment when we could of possibly done something, the rest of the music was ne, all the mixing was done, and we were in the mastering period. We weren’t supposed to be recording ything, we were just putting the songs in order. I asked the mastering engineer if he would let me record these rts, I recorded them very fast and it’s scary looking back at them because it was nauseating. I basically just id the stuff that I say to myself when I’m trying to cheer myself up. It wasn’t something that I saw myself doing that album, so it all came out quite fast. I just put it on there, and I don’t really have an opinion about it. I try to n off my thought process from that part of my mind that wants opinions, makes judgements, and just go with e deeper intuition. The deeper intuition told me to do it, and the other part of my mind that makes inions/judgements told me not to. I always try to listen to the intuition.
ow did you end up working with Boris Vallejo & Julie Bell for the artwork, and what were ey like to work with?
ey are wonderful people, and obviously wonderful artists. However you never know if someone this talented is ing to be kind, friendly, approachable, and professional. You can find people that make incredible work but are ry difficult. That was not the case with them, and it could not of been more delightful to work with them. It was ally one of the most fulfilling/powerful creative experiences that I have ever had. I don’t say that lightly. It was e culmination of a lot of different feelings and thoughts and aspects of my own path. My own interests getting to s point of working with them. We went through a lot of different ideas and ended up settling on that last one hich became the cover. It was very strange again, a lot of strong ideas fell apart. The harder I pushed and ought an idea was good, the more it revealed itself to not really be correct. This quiet and still, and very static age started to show itself. I wasn’t sure that it was going to make sense with the songs and the album overall.
ust had to shut off my mind, and let these things just take place, and have this kind of faith. It’s very scary cause you don’t feel like you’re in control, you feel like you’re being irresponsible. They were both confident out it, but I remember talking to Boris, specifically asking him if he thought it was good, as it’s quite a different nd of painting for them as well with its style and subject matter. I said, “I don’t know, do you think this is going to a good painting?” Boris was very confident, he said “No, I can see it now” he said he could see the entire age in his head before, after we talked about all of these ideas, standing out at street at night, we mapped it t, and he was very confident that I could trust in them, because they believed in this. I wanted them to be ppy with it as well.
verall this was a really motivational record. But for you, what do you want the listener to ke away after hearing 'You're Not Alone'?
ust want them to have a strong feeling, just a raw feeling. Raw/physical/emotional feeling. Whatever you want call it. Energy or power, just an intense feeling about life. A life force sensation that you can then harness and e to your own need. You can think about these songs in a way that makes sense to you. You can latch onto at feeling and direct it to where you want it to go, and that’s all I want. I want people to get butterflies in their omach, chills on their skin. Tears in your eyes. In a sense that not only is life very intense, it is worth living, and overwhelming but in the best way. Together we can acknowledge that, and celebrate it.
o how excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect?
m very excited about it, it’s the first time we’ll be coming back since 2012. I’m just glad to be coming back, and m looking forward to it very much. This is the best that the band has ever been. I don’t say that with any srespect to past band members or past tours. You hope that the longer you keep doing something that the ore you improve. That the practise pays off. That partying pays off. Partying counts as practise. We’ll be doing ot of partying ourselves, and we’ll unleash it on the stage at these upcoming shows.
Interview with Dan
When did you first get into playing bass? I was maybe like 10 or 11 years old. It was when I realized that Guns and Roses didnâ€™t have a double bass, it was a bass guitar. Rage Against The Machine, Helmet, Quicksand, Beastie Boys and all of those bands were very influential on me. They really got me excited about playing. They were all gnarly exciting bands that inspired me to play.
I would like to talk a bit about those early days of Skindred playing live. You are known for always being able to get the crowd involved, so what was it like to originally build that live status that you are now known for? In the early days there wasnâ€™t really much of a crowd to get a reaction. I can remember playing the Bierkeller 15 years ago, there was probably about 20 people there. There were a couple of die hard fans there, but the rest were randoms. Because we toured a lot, got in front of people and played. It just made us a better band. As our crowds grew, our responsibility to put on a good show also grew.
We remember going to those early live Skindred shows where Benji would get people standing from the back closer to the front by saying “This is no backstage party!” so do you think that sort of interaction has helped the live approach for the band grow? Yeah, in a sense I think we have always been very open about that fact we don’t think of ourselves as above anybody. The crowd are kind of participating in this experience together with us. That’s it.
So when you grew from playing smaller stages to festivals, how did you go about keeping that interaction at a high when the crowd was at times so far away? It’s almost like not a consideration for us. We just have this work ethic where we don’t ever want to phone it in, “This is what people have come to see us for.” Before it was 50 people, then 200 people at TJs to then 60,000 people at Download, I know it’s a big difference, but people who come just want to have a good time with us, and we also want to have a good time, so let’s do it. We really try hard, and we want to always give our best.
So for 'Big Tings' you guys are once again working with Pledgemusic, so can you tell us a bit about what you enjoy the most about this process? Yeah, so we are doing it through them again. They are a really good organisation, I think it’s a good platform for bands. It works for small bands that maybe don’t have an audience solidified. They have that network. It also really works with bigger bands because you’re directly engaging that fan base.
Okay, so how did you get to the album title 'Big Tings', and what does it mean to you guys? It was talked about a long time ago, we were kind of like joking around. We were talking about the possibility of doing a collection/greatest hits. We all love Aerosmith. Aerosmith’s greatest hits is called ‘Big Ones’ and we were like “It would be quite funny if we called our greatest hits ‘Big Tings’.” So really it grew out of that conversation a long time ago. It’s such a cool name for a record, so it just came out of that. Again with that same concept with say what ‘Kill The Power’ was, every song just has its own personality. They’re just big songs. Whether it’s drum and bass, or heavy metal. Or glam rock!
If possible, can you elaborate on some of the main themes that run throughout 'Big Tings'? I don’t know what I can say about that. I think we really made a breakthrough on our last record, the idea of we’ve always tried to write emotive songs in a fun way. Before we wrote from the beats and the rhythm up, but with this we have wrote from the song concept down. That’s the big difference with this one. Lyrical content, it’s just about living life and relationships. Be them friendships, romantic, socially, political. A lot of songs are about relationships, but not in the traditional sense of a romantic relationship.
So how did you end up working with Gary Stringer on the track 'Machine', and what was he like to work with? We are really stoked that Gary did it. For a band we were kids when Reef happened. I remember having a conversation with my mate when I was younger about the band on the mini-disc advert. It was really rad that that happened. Basically we were writing a song for Brian Johnson from AC/DC. That was the original concept of that song. Just through management. So the song was actually for him, as he has got a car racing show. The idea overall was that we were going to write a song for that. We looked around in our network. Someone said that “You should get Gary for that!” and we were like “Yeah, that would be rad!” Phil Campbell is playing the guitar solo on that as well. It’s the most rock we have ever been. It’s the most straight up rock n roll we have ever been. It’s just a really fun track. We were playing it last year at summer festivals to test the waters. We knew that it had the potential to be a single, and we had recorded a little bit before the rest of the record. We were like “We need to put something out”. It reacted really well live. I was originally quite dubious. It’s still got that “Boom” that we have, it is just a different degree. It’s a different string to our bow.
How did you end up working with Sam Hayles for the artwork to 'Big Tings', and what was he like to work with? Sam is awesome. We have known him for a very long time. He actually did some artwork for ‘Union Black’ and I loved it, but it didn’t get the go ahead. We ended up going with Tim Fix whose work is equally brilliant. I remember exactly what Sam did for ‘Union Black’ and it was pretty far out. We knew that we had a concept for it. He by far had the best product in the end, so we were like “Yeah, let’s go for it!” Sam is a good dude.
So how excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? I’m really excited, I feel like I haven’t played in ages and ages. We are going to play some new songs, and some older songs that people haven’t heard in a while. We have got a couple of ideas for it. I think people will be really stoked. You start to realize what your fans are into from your live show. You develop it from that. I think with what we’ve got coming up, there’s a couple of ideas for it, and I think people are going to be blown away. I really do. I am just stoked to get out there and do it.
When did you first get into playing music? I was around 6/7 years old, I started on piano but quickly became bored so looked around at other instruments, tried my hand at most things. I found guitar lessons a drag. I lasted two lessons, soon as I’d learnt the chords E, A & D I gave up & taught myself.
What were some of your main musical influences when growing up? When I was 10/11 years old my uncle went travelling for a year. He left his record collection at our house, boxes of vinyl in our basement. Even though I was told to not touch them I used to go down there most evenings & flick through them all, examining the artwork, the gatefold double LPs, then take what I could up to my room without my mum finding out. I discovered Bowie, Neil Young, Patti Smith, Sex Pistols, Blondie, Dylan, It was definitely a crash course in all the classics.
What was it like for you to start working/touring as a solo musician? It was tough at first in terms of the whole thing resting on my shoulders, no delegating to other band members etc. But at that time I was a lot happier doing my thing than the dealing with the stress of being in the band. It feels normal now though, I’m loving exploring music & production & working with new people.
So how did you get to the album title 'World's Strongest Man', and what does it mean to you? It was already the title of one of the tracks. The lyrics were a playful, ironic look at my own quirks & inadequacies, how amazing I could be at being emotionally useless. I then read the Grayson Perry book ‘The Descent Of Man’ & found it very affecting & inspiring. So many fascinating & refreshing insights into the problems with modern man in what is still, unbelievably, a very alpha male world.
How did the cool music video for 'Deep Pockets' come together, and what was it like to work on? I was over in LA shooting the cover photo for this album & I thought it’d be good to get some footage together that would go well with the psychedelic car journey touched on in the lyrics of ‘Deep Pockets’. It was pretty stressful as I was directing it & we were pulling it all together on a shoestring budget but all the extras did amazing. It was fun hanging out with them all & watch it come together.
How did you originally end up working with Ian Davenport, and can you tell us a bit about what he is like to work with? We worked together on ‘Matador’. But we go back a long way & had worked together way back when too. On ‘Matador’ & this record I’d record & write a lot alone at my own studio, get loads of ideas together, then head over to Courtyard studio where Ian works & we’d go through the ideas from the previous week, expand & evolve them. Then I’d go back to mine & work on more stuff & keep repeating that process. He’s a fabulous facilitator & producer with a great ear & radar for what’s good.
What do you enjoy the most about producing your own material, and how has that process changed for you over the years? I just know what I want to hear. Coming up with concepts & an approach is the easy bit but translating what’s in my head onto record can be a tougher process. But finding sounds in the studio is something I love with a passion & for me production is just an extension of the writing process
What was the hardest part about putting 'World's Strongest Man' together for you, and why? There was a few tracks that didn’t show themselves for ages. I knew there was something great about them but for whatever reason I couldn’t see the end track. So I’d hate the thing for a bit, put it to one side but come back to it when I’d had some space from it. That seemed to work & it was worth the pain as one of the problem tracks ‘The Oaks’ ended up being one of my favourites.
How did the front cover for 'World's Strongest Man' come together, and what does it mean to you? It was shot at a house in the Hollywood hills by photographer Steve Keros. I’d had the idea for the cover after visiting David Hackney’s exhibition in Paris during summer 2017. I left feeling inspired & with all these colours flying around my head. I knew I wanted it to be a visual reaction to the ‘Matador’ cover, basically not b&w. And the water/pool vibe in paintings like A Bigger Splash really inspired me. The juxtaposition of the bold, direct album title in pink & the idea of a vulnerable & floored character we thought was cool. Steve & I ultimately wanted to just create a cool piece of art. And what I like about art is you can read into it how you wish.
Looking back on 'Matador', how happy have you been with the response to the album so far, and what do you think it's done your representation as a musician? I’m very happy with how ‘Matador’ went. It’s a record that means a lot to me. The last 4 years or so I think have been the most creative of my life. So I guess it’s like others agree with me that I’m writing good material at the moment. That’s never a bad thing.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? It’s going to be an exciting tour. I’ve been in rehearsals with the band for the last few months & it’s sounding huge. The new album especially is feeling amazing to play live. I really can’t wait for people to see the live show.
What else can we expect to see from Gaz Coombes in 2018? I’m heading through Europe in April, doing some solo shows. After the May tour there’ll be festivals & some cool one off shows. I’m pretty much touring now right through to the end of 2019. Onwards & upwards.
So a nice standard question to start with. How did you get to the album title 'Be More Kind', and what does it mean to you? It's taken, most immediately, from a poem by Clive James called "Leรงons Des Tenebres". But it's a reasonably common sentiment in literature, particularly writings from people with a bit of age and wisdom under their belt, so it struck me hard, which turned into a song, which ended up fitting in as the title track for the record.
We've read that "'Be More Kind' captures your reconciling the personal with the political", so can you maybe elaborate on that as well as some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout the album? I guess I was drawn to write songs about things happening in the world - for the first time in a while, my last two records have been personal, affairs-of-the-heart things - by the madness that seems to be ramping up with every passing week. In particular, we were on tour in the USA with Flogging Molly in August 2016, during the presidential elections, which was an alarming and depressing time to be there. My main reactions, though, haven't generally been of the Rage Against The Machine variety, I'm too long in the tooth to be that cocksure. I ended up writing more about how individuals, on a personal level, react to these kinds of events, and how it is we are to proceed from here. So that's the main thing going on here. It's also linked in with me having settled down in my personal life, which is lovely in and of itself, but also serves as a source of strength, for me, in tumultuous times.
“You should at least be able to inhabit the mental universe of the people you disagree with. If you can’t do that, then how do you communicate with people other than through force of arms" this is a really great thought. However, can you tell us a bit about what you mean by it, and how this theme found its way onto the record? The central fact of human society is that we disagree with each other. Politics is basically the discussion of how we go about that. Liberalism, as I understand it, is faith in a certain set of culturally agreed norms, which aim to ensure that we conduct our arguments without recourse to violence, and with respect for our opponents. That all seems to be falling by the wayside, and there are large, vocal groups who are cheering its passing - something I find depressing, and which I suspect they will live to regret. If you can't see where your opponents are coming from, you can't effect where they are headed, unless through the use of force. That's the philosophical side of it. In terms of the record, I suppose there's a general theme of encouraging humility and consideration in our arguments (very much for myself as well). Sometimes it's worth saying "I don't know", or "I changed my mind", rather than dying on every rhetorical hill as seems to be the way with social media right now.
In regards to the track '1933' you said that “The idea that Breitbart or Steve Bannon think they have anything to do with punk rock makes me extremely angry." so can you tell us a bit about how that found its way onto ‘1933’? The song is about false dawns. There was a moment when certain people were discussing the alt-right in terms of it being transgressive or rebellious, which I suppose it is, in some ways. But that just highlights the fact that rebeliousness, in and of itself, is morally valueless, it depends entirely on what exactly you're rebelling against. Celebrating people or movements which cause destruction, for its own sake, strikes me as pretty short-sighted. More generally, the song ‘1933’ is about movements which promise national renewal that's something I'd thought we'd learned not to trust, and learned that the hard way.
Also, we did want to ask how the cool music video for '1933' came together? We have line-drawings for each of the new songs, done by the wonderful Ben Rix, and we decided to try animating them. They look pretty cool I think.
You were half way through putting an album together and then you read a poem called Leçons Des Ténèbres which changed everything. Can you tell us about that moment, and why you think it had such a big impact on you as a writer? I'm a huge fan of Clive James' work anyway. He's terminally ill (alas), and his words of wisdom from the frontline with death have really affected me in the last few years, he's a wonderful writer. It's a bold thing, to try and distill into words the things that matter at the end of a life.
For 'Be More Kind' you said that “I wanted to try and get out of my comfort zone and do something different”, so can you tell us a bit about that, and maybe how the record compares overall to anything you've done before? ‘Positive Songs’ was, musically, an attempt to step back and remind myself of first principles. The record is largely played live, we rehearsed it for 18 months, then cut it in 9 days. I still love that record, it was a success, so it's time then to move on to pastures new, to try something different. It's also my 7th solo record, so I like to think I've earned the right to take some stylistic left-hand turns. I started messing around with drum loops while I was demoing, which grew into messing around with synths and a whole load of instruments and technology that were new to me. I also spent time thinking about the 80s post-punk scene, and the intelligent pop music of bands like The Cure, Scritti Politti and so on. Plus we spent a lot of time on the road with Arkells, who also fall into that category, to me. So, yeah, all of that led into me trying to make some new sounds.
Leading on from that, how did you end up working with Austin Jenkins, Joshua Block, Charlie Hugal, and how would you say they helped shape the album? Austin and Josh recorded the bulk of the album in Texas. I can't say enough good things about them. In the event, the record became this stylistically episodic thing, where I wanted to allow each song to dictate where it wanted to go, follow each road, without having to think about the overall sound, or how we'd play it live, or whatever. Finding producers who are all-round enough to handle that isn't easy, but there was nothing I could throw at them which phased them. We then got Charlie Hugall in for the mix (plus some extra production work), and he really brought the whole thing together, sonically.
This record was put together over seven months, which is much more time than you have had before. So what was it like to have this much time and space to put a record together? It was a privilege. I was able to get some distance on the songs, and generally take a step back from the album in the middle of making it, which was a new feeling for me, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Be More Kind' together for you, and why? In general, it was a pretty easy recording process, in the sense that there was little tension per se. I spent a lot of time over it because I could, and because I wanted to make sure I got it right, when taking sonic and stylistic risks. I was pushing myself as hard as I could for this one, but I hesitate to say it was hard. Getting some of the more politically thorny lyrics right took some time, I will say.
Looking back on 'Positive Songs for Negative People' how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Frank Turner? I'm still really happy with that record, for what it was. It was, deliberately and in conception, a limited record, an attempt to document the Sleeping Souls and I as a band, and an attempt to restate who I am and what we do in the aftermath of ‘Tape Deck Heart’, which was a wild time for me. So I think it succeeds at what it sets out to do.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Positive Songs for Negative People' at the moment, and why? I think ‘Get Better’ has earned its place as a staple in most of my live sets going forward. I also really enjoy ‘Mittens’, though I tend to lean more on the acoustic / solo version as time goes by. But a lot of it feels great in the set.
With 'Songbook' did re-shaping your older songs have any effect on how you approached putting songs together for 'Be More Kind'? A little, but those reworkings were generally things we'd been doing on the road for quite a while already. ‘Songbook’ is how I met Charlie Hugall though, so that definitely shaped the new record!
So, how excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Very. I can't wait to get back on the road again. We've had a fair amount of time off. And I'm excited to play these new songs out live, to see how they go down. There are a fair few challenges, musically and logistically, but I like a challenge. We'll be hitting the new material, and the old as well, as ever, I don't like to disappoint if I can avoid it.
What else can we expect to see from Frank Turner in 2018? I have various side-projects on the go, as always, I'll shout about them as and when.
Interview with Grant
After the response to 'All Bright Electric' you said that you are now "in the best creative space of your life", which is quite evident with 'Arrow' being added to the greatest hits! So can you elaborate on where this sort of spark has come from? Creatively I am in a pretty good space at the moment. I feel like there are ideas there, and that I know what I am trying to do. I don’t want to give myself too much of a model, because I don’t want to feel like I’m trapped in that. If we want to write something that’s just rocking/big riffs, then it’s going to happen. If we want to do something a bit more mellow, then that’s all part of us as a band. That’s all part of our DNA. That’s always going to be there. You never quite know until you finish a record whether it’s going to go slightly more that way than this way. It’s all about the songs, it doesn’t have to be heavy, it could still be a powerful song. Hopefully we have shown that over the years. It’s amazing the amount of people that actually do like a lot of our b-sides which are more mellow and experimental. You don’t realize until you see how certain songs are popular on spotify, which we never knew were. It’s quite interesting. I know on spotify you can’t work everything around that, but it does give you some indication of what songs people like, which we haven’t played in a while. It’s brought a new generation of fans forward. That’s partly from early fans who have grown older and have had kids and they’ve got into Feeder from their parents, then there’s the older brothers/sisters etc. That’s happened as well. We are still popular in universities. We are a student band, and we’ve still got a lot of indie kids coming to the shows. That’s quite unusual for a band like ourselves, who have been around for a long time doing rock music. I think that’s very encouraging. I have been to see a few other bands that started around a similar time to us, and they’ve got quite a lot of older people at the shows. We’ve got a good mix. I don’t know how we’ve managed it, but somehow we have. It’s just the way things have worked out for us. Which is good. You want to feel like it’s great to have your die hard fans, who we absolutely wouldn’t be here without them. However, to know you’re bringing some new people forward as well is encouraging.
How did putting this album together, compare to how you approached 'The Singles' in 2006? Well BMG wanted it to be just singles, as they said we’ve got so many singles and I was like “Jesus we have, I didn’t realize”. We have a lot of double A-Side singles like ‘Down To The River’ and some of the stuff on ‘This Town’ a few tracks that were still kind of singles to us. Often we put out a free track on each album, and that’s kind of the first single but it’s not an official single. So I wanted to try and get some of those on there like ‘Universe of Life’ and ‘Down To The River’ etc. Tracks like that. If we could of put our personal favourites on there as a band, it would of just been like another 50 tracks. So we felt like okay, we did the ‘Singles’ album that was a long time ago and we’ve made four albums since then, plus the ‘Arrow’ stuff as well. So it’s quite a lot of material to add to that ‘Singles’ record, which is now over a decade old. It’s not like we’ve over milked it. I think most bands with our history have made three “Best Ofs” by now. This is our first actual ‘Best Of’. I think we’ve timed it about right. After being away for awhile, coming back with a new record was great, but I think it’s almost like a little reminder to people to say that this is what we’ve done. It’s also a reminder to ourselves, because I was amazed thinking “Wow, we’ve done that many top 20 singles!” not that I really care about that but it’s quite interesting to read. We’ve probably done a lot more than people think, as we’ve always been seen as a bit more of a cult band, and we’ve never been on a major label in the UK. It was interesting to see that well actually, that’s a pretty good track record. So BMG wanted to go with all of the singles plus any of our favourite double A-sides and it came to 50 tracks including ‘Arrow’. I was asked if I could write one or two new songs for it, maybe one could be a single. I ended up writing more than that, so I said “How about a mini-album?” and we can tie it in with the layout of ‘Swim’. There’s nine tracks, it’s an albums worth of material. So I just said “Look this is great because it’s given people that bought the ‘Singles’ album something completely new plus you are getting all of those extra tracks as well.” It just made it a really nice package for people.
I read that you approached the writing process for 'Arrow' in a more conventional way where you wrote it in a “this is a greatest hits” headspace? I did a little bit, I had my headspace in there. I’ll be honest with you, there are three songs that are not like that, one of them was done on the ‘Renegades’ recording and it’s called ‘Walk Away’ it sounds nothing like ‘Renegades’, and that’s the reason why I didn’t put it on that record. It was done and left, and not really quite finished. It had all of the vocals, it was even mixed. I went back to it and thought that it was quite a good track. I think we just gave it a little tweak in the mix, we didn’t really add anything to it. So that ended up on there as well. There’s a song called ‘Veins’ which is the first sort of single, which is a song that I wrote for my solo record when I first started to write for that. I felt it was a bit too “Feeder”, so I kept that back as well. That was basically finished apart from bass, and there wasn’t quite as many heavy guitars. So I got Taka to redo the bass, and I just added a few more guitars, and we got that mix and it ended up being on there. ‘Sirens’ was originally part of the ‘All Bright Electric’ album but we felt like it wasn’t the right song for that record. So that was another one that we touched on. It was just a different headspace, as it wasn’t the usual album process. So really apart from those three it was all kind of wrote with a “Hey, this is a ‘Singles’ album” approach. I wasn’t thinking with like a commercial head, as I wrote ‘Arrow’ which is not an obvious single. But I wanted something that touched on that earlier Feeder, heavier/darker side as well. It was quite good fun to write actually. However I did have a very limited time to write, I had three weeks to do the whole thing, to actually write it out, and record it. So it was really high pressure but that was down to me as I wanted to do some more tracks. I was quite happy to deal with that. It was fun, but if felt like we were kind of making an album, but it didn’t, as it was undecided. I didn’t have that pressure of “This is the album”, but when I started to get more and more songs I felt like “Well, actually it’s not a bad little record!” It was a very different headspace compared to doing a Feeder record. With a Feeder record, there’s a bit more of a plan happening in your head, a film script. It takes on a bit of a life. Whereas this was a bit more kind of from day to day really. Slightly different, but I still think there are some good tracks on it. The title track ‘Arrow’ is one my favourites on there, that’s often the way. It’s probably not a radio song but it was one that I really enjoyed doing. We recorded that stuff quickly. I did most of it in my studio at home, (Treehouse). Then we did all of the drums in the usual studios we go to.
Finally, what has it been like to rehearse some of the older songs for touring in 2018? It’s been really good, but the problem we’ve got is we have got too many songs. So once you leave out some of the favourites, which I know some of the older fans might be happy with because they want to hear the older material. So it’s been quite tricky to get a set. It’s been really hard. At least we are prepared now, where we can throw in some of those older songs if we want to. Not just for the latest tour, but with the upcoming festivals, so we can always throw in an older classic. We are currently doing a couple that we haven’t done for awhile, but we tried to keep some of the more obvious ones in there as well. Without it being a crazy long set. I think there’s only so much loud music you can hear! The set will change a little bit, not massively, as a whole set. We might throw in ‘Crash’ one night or ‘Cement’ which we haven’t played for god knows. I think the last time we played ‘Cement’ was with Jon. We played ‘Stereo World’ the other night, which we hadn’t played since Jon was alive. I don’t know if people got it, but it was interesting to play.
We have to talk X-Men: First Class, of course. How fun was it to play Azazel, and what did you enjoy the most about working in that huge sci-fi world? Again, that was a Matt Vaughn thing. It was the ninth job I’d done with him. That’s always proved to be a good thing to do, to keep in with Matt. Our work together is symbiotic. When he has someone on set who he can shout at (because he certainly can’t shout at the other actors, as they’ll quit), that works for him. It works for me, because I’m his lucky mentor, and that’s always done me a favour. To be really honest with you, that was the last prosthetic job I’d done. Before that I had done Clash of the Titans, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and I had sort of begun to get this prosthetic depression, which is a serious affliction that many actors suffer from. So doing this six hour make up as Azazel was sort of the last straw. The straw which broke the camels back. I haven’t gone back to that world. If I can help it, I’ll keep well away from it. Anytime you are in make up for five hours before you even start filming at 9 in the morning is never really a very spectacular day. I kind of pass on the mad monster jobs now.
How has working with Matt Vaughn shaped your career over the years? We kind of parted ways just because we did so much together. I needed to not just be Matt’s cuddly toy. Azazel was great fun, but it was nine months and three lines. I decided that I should move off and try to push my acting career. I was really interested in producing/directing. I just directed my first movie, and I loved that. I was only allowed to do that because Dexter and I had this production company to make films ourselves. To stop being foot soldiers, and actually be in charge of production, that was the plan. Dexter wasn’t doing any acting at the time, so he was like “Come on, let’s do this!” then Matt was offering me a certain amount of money to work for four months work, and I was like “I’ve got to do that, sorry Dex!” So I felt like I was being left behind a little bit. I needed to make a commitment and stop doing these big movies with Matt, and start doing my own thing. Which I did. ‘Eat Locals’ was sort of the conclusion of that, and now I’m producing more. I’m producing with old mates now, and I’m really enjoying that.
What did you find the most challenging about directing Eat Locals? I loved every second of it. Directing is just making decisions very quickly. In a series of yes and nos. You just have to commit to them, make them, and live by them. So I found that OK. Like I said with acting, if you surround yourself by certain people, then they carry you along by their coattails. There was a lot of patience and love for ‘Eat Locals’. The next one I’ve got to do has to be a big success, so I am just trying to work out what way to go, and what to choose. I desperately want to go back to work, but I know that I have probably only got one more roll of the dice on that front, so I just need to be careful.
For those that haven’t seen it just yet, what can you tell them about Eat Locals? It’s a laugh! It’s a classic British comedy in the vein of all the old British comedies and horrors that we all saw growing up. I tried to pay as much homage to that as I could. I’m really pleased with it! It is hard making a film. 99.8% of people who say they want to make a film, don’t. So I’m just quite pleased to of ticked that box.
I read an interview where you said that when you were younger you "wanted to be a movie star – and in fact, you still do!", so as lot of people would consider you one already, then what do you mean by that?
I’ve probably changed my mind since then! What I love about being me is that I can be an actor who works in TV, film, and have a relatively normal life. Whereas my mate Statham. My wife and I are doing a bingo night at our kids school to raise money for them. I was like “J you’ll have to come!” and then I was like “No, you probably can’t do that, because you’ll get wiped out by a tsunami of single mums who will all just dive on you!” So he can’t do stuff like that. To be honest, however many millions you make, that’s a sacrifice that you have to accept. It’s not one that I have had to do. So my answer to that is there’s a difference between a movie star and a movie actor.
You are slightly claustrophobic yourself, so can you tell us a bit about what it was like to work on sets like the ones in The Descent, as well as maybe any other experiences like this you went through in the series? It wasn’t the best. What I have realised with my claustrophobia is that the thought of it is worse than the reality, but I knew I had to do it. The magic of film is of course the sets, but in front of you there’s a crew of 30 people. Even if we are meant to be in the corner of the cave, we can still see the vastness of the studio in front of us. So a lot of the pieces you see didn’t feel claustrophobic. However, the set that did feel claustrophobic was the tunnel where I got trapped because I could stop the action and ask the camera man to back up, and the art department to lift up the rock. However, that whole process would take at least a couple of minutes. You don’t want to be that actor that does that, that stops the action. That’s why actors end up getting hurt, and having panic attacks. As you push it so far, until you can’t do it anymore. So there were moments where I thought “Oh god, this feels actually quite real, and I feel quite panicked, and that’s ironic because I’m playing a part where I’m meant to be like that” If you force your body to hyperventilate your mind then thinks you are hyperventilating. It’s a weird mix and you’ve got to be quite careful not to go too far. You know with actors when they are doing a breakdown scene, they can’t then just to switch back to being a normal person, because your mind in that moment is being convinced, your body is convulsing, you are having a breakdown. So you can’t then switch back to being normal instantly. So there were a few moments where I thought “Oh god, I feel like I’m going to panic” but I never had to stop filming. There was a weird part in The Descent: Part 2 which they didn’t keep in the movie, it was completely the downfall of the whole thing I thought. It was really well explained how she got out, and she was supposed to be swept away in an underwater tunnel. So on the last week of the filming, when they do all of the dangerous stuff, because if the actor dies they’ve got enough in the movie to cut it all together, the reality. We were in Ealing Studios and it’s mostly the same crew. It was a bit of a groundhog day with The Descent: Part 2 in a good way, and a weird/uncomfortable way. They said “Okay we are going to half submerge this tunnel in a tank in Ealing” and I was like “Okay, that’s a great idea...!” “We are going to tie a rope around your ankle, and we are going to blast air under the water to create this torrent. We are going to pull you by the ankle, and the air will create loads of bubbles to make it look like you’re drowning.” So again, I was like “That’s a great idea..!” Then they did it, and I said “That’s the only take you are getting, I’m not doing that again, I hope you’ve got the footage. If you do that to me again, then I’ll probably drown!” They do push you, but you do it.
When you look back on the series itself, why do you personally think it has become so iconic? I think sadly because it’s still unusual to have six females lead a film, it challenged what people thought horror films were about. Neil Marshall was adamant that he wanted real people in an unreal situation. Even with the fighting, he tried to make it scrappy. With the crescendo at the end it gets a bit more actiony, but the sort of scrabbling about specially the bit with Juno and Holly, where Juno is fighting with the crawlers, it’s really feral. It’s nails and teeth and hair, biting, you’re just trying to survive. Luckily for us, another horror movie called The Cave came out at the same time, which didn’t stand up against ours. You’ve really got to make sure that the audience invest in your character, so when you die you feel something. The only way to make the audience invest in your character, is to make your character believable. Like I said before about finding the truth in the reality of a situation. If you’ve not done that ground work, and if it’s not in the script. If the director isn’t interested in shooting that character development, then the film as a whole suffers. Because the audience don’t care. People talk a lot about set pieces in film, and it basically means pieces of action. I think many genre makers think that’s what keeps people interested in the movie. However, when you look at why say the Alien movies were so groundbreaking, it was because of Sigourney Weaver. Her journey. Sure there were awesome action bits with the Alien, but if she didn’t play the character the way she did, then you wouldn’t care so much. It’s all about taste as well, and what you like. I love watching movies where I am so into what the character is doing/thinking and then suddenly when the character turns and there’s a betrayal, because you’ve invested in that character then that’s even more shocking. So at the end when Sarah does the “thing” to Juno, it’s like “What! No!”
How did you become a part of Howl? So I have three daughters. I got a Facebook message from Paul, and I was in Australia because my husband was shooting there. He said that “I really want you to play this part, I’ll send you the script” but my head was so far away from thinking of being on a film set. Because when you are on a film set you don’t really see your kids, or when you do it’s slightly stressful. You can make it work, and I have brought kids to the set before. For The Descent: Part 2 Jesi my eldest was on set everyday. You need to have the people around you to do that, and the money to do that. I was lucky in the Descent: Part 2 that they couldn’t make the movie without me, so everything was provided for. Whereas Howl was a really low budget film, and they are not going to provide a nanny out of their own pocket and all that. So I thought “Oh god, do I want to think about this, do I want to go back into another horror, and at that moment I didn’t want to be known as a horror girl” but your friend who you have known for 7 or 8 years at that time who you worked with on a film together that changed everybodies life, is reaching out to you and asking you “Please be in this movie for me” you’re like “Oh god, OK! I’ll do it!” So anyway, I read the script, and thankfully I really liked it. I thought it was funny, I liked the character, she was a bit of a bitch, and I quite liked that I was getting to do that. Actually I woke up from my eternal slumber and thought that “I have to work, I have to get back into it properly” Once you are doing a horror film, when you are in amongst the blood and the gore, it’s really quite an exhausting process. It’s quite physical normally, the ones I seem to get cast in anyway. It’s quite emotional as well. You really earn your money on a horror movie. I said “Yes I will do your film, I’ll just have to figure out all of the logistics” The logistics ended up being a bit mental. So two of my daughters stayed in Scotland with my mum, Cal was in Australia (my husband), and I got a nanny for my baby. Everything was kind of getting to this bottleneck situation where I was trying to be a working mum with three kids and my husband was off filming. I don’t know how women do it, and my agent said “Shauna this is what it is like to be a working mum in the movie industry” and I thought “It is, I’ve just got to zip up my suit and deal with it” so I did, I dealt with it. All of the logistics kind of fell into place. It was a really affirming experience showing that I’m still in this game, and that I want to still be in this game.
The plot for Nails itself just sounds terrifying. You're paralazyed and you encounter a ghost. So can you tell us a bit about how interesting or maybe how challenging this character was to play? Yeah, so yet again. It’s funny, I keep trying to get away from horror, but horror really seems to like me. It’s a real honour that I’ve realised. They tend to get me when I feel like I am quite happy being a mother, and then they send me this horrific script and I’m like “Ooh! That would be quite dark and interesting to play with!” I was in London, my husband was working, and I was being the mum. This script came, and I said “Gosh that’s really dark” she’s paralyzed from the waist down, she can’t talk. Whenever there’s a part where you feel scared about doing, there’s some morbid fascination with that. You think “Oh god, that seems horrific. Oh, maybe I should do that because that seems really hard!” Anyway, I spoke to Dennis via Skype. It’s always nice when it’s an offer as well, that makes you feel good. He explained it to me, he was saying all of the right things which made me want to work on the film. Then we get on set, it’s really low budget. I was so relieved that I had done my work beforehand. I had properly researched brain injury, and what happens to your speech. I spoke to two separate speech therapists, I went to hospital and visited the high dependency unit, just did proper research. This way at least you’ll always have a truth to back up your acting. It was interesting, because with this even though you would think “Let’s shoot this in sequence” because it was all in one room, it was all shot out of sequence. I’ve got this massive physical recovery to do, but they’re shooting scene 20, and then scene 5, 27 etc. You’re like “Oh my goodness!” As it was low budget they saved on a script supervisor, IE continuity person. So the make up person and the art department and myself were trying our best to kind of remember what state my face was in, the costume was in, the special effects were in. It was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, and I think with all the conditions that were thrown our way, the movie is pretty solid. It was a real test of “How much can you keep it together?”
Doing something completely different again, you got to be Carole in Filth, so what did you find the most rewarding about playing this character in particular? James McAvoy and I have known each other since we were young teenagers. He has always been phenomenal, even as a kid, his work ethic is amazing. I have worked with him on various things as youngsters. When you are working with James, it’s about the scene and he doesn’t try and mug you off. You see lots of actors turning towards the camera, so the other actors are talking to the back of their head because they want their face to be on screen, things like that which are really unhelpful, and don’t help the scene, or the relationship between the actors. So I knew that he was going to make the film great. I actually begged my agent for an audition. I said “please get me in, I know I can do Carole!” she said “I know, I’m trying to get you in!” Anyway, I finally got in, and Jon S. Baird made me work really hard. I think I did three auditions. They didn’t really know what they wanted Carole to be like. They didn’t know where they wanted to pitch it. In terms of “How wacky is she?” Then we ended up with the idea that she’s a 1940s – 50s film star, where there’s something effective about their speech. So we started with that, but most of the film was shot chronologically. The way Jon directed me at the start, was different to the way he directed me at the end, because I could see that everything was piecing together for him. He was editing in his head, and literally as we read. I loved it, it was such a cushy job, I got to go to Berlin, Hamburg, Sweden, and I knew that my part couldn’t be cut, because of the story. James was great, and it was really nice to hangout with him. I just felt again that I was back in the game, and part of something exciting. Martin Compston was in it, and I love him. Jim Broadbent and all that. I just loved it! The great thing was I got to be completely sexy and weird. She’s not a total kitten. In some of the scenes it looks like I’m in drag, but it’s meant to look like that. It was a three hour make up call, I’ve got loads of freckles, but they wanted that flawless fake Hollywood thing. I am usually doing something where I can’t speak, can’t talk, have facial injuries, covered in blood thing. So it was really nice to do something so flawless.
What can we expect from your upcoming film White Chamber? That was crazy, we shot it in 13 days. It’s a heightened genre movie. It’s set in the dystopian future where there’s a Civil War going on in the United Kingdom, and a group of scientists have been employed by the government to come up with this drug to give to the military to fight the rebels. We are testing this drug on humans and it all goes hideously wrong. It takes place over four days in the lab. It all goes a bit Pete Tong. It was great, we managed to shoot it chronologically, and it was a real challenge because this character is very still. She’s like something lurking in the shadows, and then she pounces and just goes mental. The stillness is kind of not me naturally, that reserve, and watchfulness, and essence of the character doesn’t come naturally to me. I find it quite challenging to play. She’s an English rose which I’m not. I found that great to play with. We are opening in places like Brussels, Edinburgh Film Festival and we are still toting it out. There’s a great buzz about it. Paul Raschid is an uber talened director who was just 24 when we shot it. I stupidly thought “Oh gosh, I am going to have to be really patient, and show him the ropes a bit” but he had it completely down. He is really someone to watch, the sky is the limit for him. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he knew exactly what he wanted from us. He was really supportive as a director with his actors, and great with the crew. Open to ideas, but he also knew exactly where he wanted the film to go. It was a mad two weeks for everybody who was in it, doing the best they could. The hours were ridiculous, but we just wanted to get the film shot.
Why do you think the film stands out? It’s because it’s in that Black Mirror way, where we are not that far from this. If you think what Trump has done, this could be a year from now. Suddenly thinking of worst case scenarios doesn’t seem like an impossibility. If we set up an environment where the social norms are just skewed ever so slightly but slowly over a period of time, then people start behaving really badly. That’s kind of what we are playing on with this movie. It just takes enough people to convince enough people that this is the way to go. Then you just end up in this diabolical situation where everybody is just hopeless! It’s that sort of fascination of “How bad can this be guys? Okay, so he’s the president what is the worst that could happen?” Also with the whole Brexit thing, everything is so up in the air, and politically we just seem to be in this crazy situation that we couldn’t of imagined. We just seem to be on this roller coaster going down, we are just waiting for the loop to loop, and no one knows what’s going to happen on that bit. We shot this over a year ago, but this movie just seems to be right for this time!
We have to ask you, how fun was it to play a resistance pilot in Star Wars? Yeah, it was great fun. What was weird was I was back in Pinewood where I had done Spooks and The Descent. So that was nice, I always love going back there. Darren Morfitt was a mechanic in it. We got to hang out, he is a Dog Soldier (from the film!). It was totally bonkers, I was like “Darren what are you doing here!?” and he was like “Shauna what are you doing here!?” I said “I got a call from Nina Gold the casting agent” and he was like “So did I!”. Casting agents are kind of what hold the reigns on your career. Nina Gold put me forward, and got me the job, it was amazing. It was fun. There was a group of us, and at points we did just feel like glorified extras in the foreground because we are kind of painting the back of the shots to be fair. We were watching everybody do the acting. However, once you got over yourself about that. We just took it for a really great experience. To be a part of that franchise, it’s a whole different way of working. I’ll tell you what Rian Johnson the director is a lovely bloke, he is so approachable, and lovely and I kind of wasn’t expecting that. You think the bigger the film, the more money, people are going to be a nightmare, but I didn’t experience that at all. Everybody was really lovely, and treated us with respect. Which, you know I’ll go onto a horror film set and get treated with utter respect instantly, but you go onto a massive franchise and you are the actor that no one really knows, you don’t have any lines particularly in this scene. It’s easy to forget that everyone is human, and to treat that person with less respect than the others. But I didn’t get that sense. That usually comes from the top. Rian Johnson just ran his set really well, where everybody respected each other. I was really impressed. It’s hard not to be impressed. I was more impressed with how everybody was working with each other. It’s so impressive watching the animatronics on the sets, everything. It was like going into a convention, or a Universal Studio ride. Everybody was in costume, and you’re on this set. It felt totally unreal. Everybody was being really nice to each other, and chatting away. Next time I hope that they give me more lines, because I can definitely do that. Slowly but surely.
As your career has gone on, do you think you’ve had more freedom as an actress? It depends what I am in, and who knows me. Who doesn’t know me, and why should they know me. The horror world is quite a dedicated but small world comparatively. I often get asked to conventions. There’s this great guy called Laurence Wreford who works for Showmasters, and I have known him for ages. He sent me an email saying “Hey Shauna, I’ve got this do you want to come along?” Usually it’s a weekend convention, but he’ll book me for one day, because last time he said that I’m “A bit of a wildcard, you did this little cult movie but not very many people know about it” and it’s fair enough. I have stood the test of time, but I am small fry in all of these things. I’ve got respect in some pools of the industry, people that have seen my work or appreciate what I’ve done. Not everybody has seen the Descent, not everybody has seen Filth which is becoming a cult movie in its own right. I’ve not really done a massive franchise apart from Star Wars, but if you blink you’ll miss me. My dad went to the toilet and he missed me. I’ve still yet to break through to that next level, but then do you want to break through to that next level? I am still at that point where I’ve got to prove myself, to be the good actor, where people say “Oh that’s Shauna Macdonald, she’s that great actress!” actually maybe it’s best that I’ve got to just earn it. I’m happy to do that, and I know that I can if you just give me enough to do. I will earn it.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2018? Well that’s it really. White Chamber is coming out. A few conventions, but it’s been deadly quiet. It’s been pretty white knuckle. I don’t really know what’s heading my way, I am just at the point of trying to book a job, doing lots of meetings, seeing what’s going to stick. I am a jobbing actor at the moment, that is trying to get a job. Nowadays it doesn’t seem to matter what you’ve done, everybody is fighting to get a job. I think it’s across a lot of different industries, but certainly the film industry, and certainly amongst actors. I am starting to freak out a little bit, because I am going to be 37 in April, and that is getting to the scary point where there’s less parts being written for that age category. I am hoping that I’ll do some amazing stuff sooner, rather than later so my profile bumps up, and people will just say “get Shauna Macdonald” without even having to audition, that would be really good.
So when did you realize that composing was what you wanted to do with your life? It really wasn't until I started scoring my first short films and working with my director friends that I felt this was a right fit for me. As much as I love standalone music, it's always the story and its characters that gets my mind going.
What were your major influences growing up? It was a mix of art, literature and film. Art was one of my first loves. Then it was literature and film. Dickens was a god to me growing up. I'd say Dumas was close up there as well as other writers of the Victorian gothic; Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allen Poe and of course Oscar Wilde. Film-wise I was steeped in the golden era epics of Hollywood: Ben Hur (the second one with Charlton Heston), The Ten Commandments, Gone with the Wind, Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia. Later on it was to be Hitchcock and Polanski films.
What was your first major project, and what do you remember the most from it? I'd say my first feature film was the first major one. Dark Woods, later to be released under the name Forbidden Attraction (I much prefer the original title myself). This was back in 2009. Creatively it was really quite a rewarding experience. I'd found out about the film on a blog of independent/foreign thriller and horror films and there was a teaser for the film on there. I wrote to the cinematographer, who was the only crew member I could find a contact email for at the time and it wasn't until two or three months later that the producer wrote to me and was interested in setting up a meeting with him and the director. In the end the meeting was only with the director and the first thing he said to me when he walked into my studio was “Have you seen Let the Right One In?” a Swedish thriller which I'd coincidentally seen a few months prior at the Los Angeles Film Festival and loved. I said it was one of my favorite films (and it still is all these years later) and we really clicked from there. In terms of tone, it's probably one of the closest I've done to the lonely intimacy I'm quite interested in in stories.
How did you get involved with The Greatest Showman, and what did you enjoy the most about working on this movie? I've been working as technical assistant to John Debney for a little while now and that's how I got involved in Showman as he was scoring it. Getting to work on a beautiful musical film with such great songs and a brilliant score was a wonderful honor to be a part of and it's actually the first film I've gotten to take my mom to see on opening night at the cinema (most of my other film projects are foreign films or independents that premiere either abroad or at various film festivals). Probably what I enjoyed most was hearing the score come alive for the first time with the full orchestra down at Fox Scoring Stage and later getting to walk out there in the room where so many of my favorite scores have been recorded, The Sound of Music, Jaws, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Avatar.
What was it like to work on the sci-fi TV show The Orville? I'd never worked on a TV show before The Orville, again as John Debney's technical assistant and as to be expected in television, the speed in which everything is done and on this scale (full orchestras every week; luckily we alternated with other composers on the show so ours was once every two weeks or so). Quite inspiring.
What was it like to work as a technical score engineer alongside Mikel Hurwitz for the Justice League, and what did you learn the most from this project? It was very intense as the time crunch was insane which is how I got involved (a kind recommendation from one of Danny's engineers who also engineers for John) but a real pleasure to work with Mikel on the film. It is a great privilege, as it is with John, to get a peak into the inner workings of large scale productions such as these and you always walk away with a lot whether it's technical knowledge, musical inspiration, or simply experience working as part of such a crew.
What was it like to score Michael Nardelli's episode of DARK/WEB? It was a lot of fun. I've known Michael for years now. We first met at San Diego Comic Con years ago when I'd scored a web series called Dragon Age: Redemption that was part of the BioWare Dragon Age world and we had a panel down there. We've kept in touch over the years and he approached me about DARK/WEB due to my love for Polanski's film The Tenant, which had played a role in inspiring the episode he wrote and directed. I love working closely with the filmmaker in the studio crafting the scenes after I've sketched out the musical ideas for the film and with Michael it was a rare pleasure as most of the filmmakers I work with are in other countries (Sweden mainly these days) and so a lot of the interaction is over Skype. With Michael, he'd come in and sit on the couch, which I've placed in front of my desk (I prefer it so that the filmmaker has no distraction between him and the film on the screen and I work 'behind the scenes' quite literally), and we talk and work through the cues and do the final crafting together. That was a lot of fun. Another time I've done that (but over Skype) to great effect I think is on the Swedish thriller Bieffekterna (Origin) with directors Andreas Climent and André Hedetoft. I remember one of the cues I'd written wasn't quite working and I was on Skype with Andreas one day and he and I basically put that cue together with me playing live on my end over Skype and it never changed from that once we'd worked it all out together. It's still one of my favorite scenes in the film.
You have worked in quite a diverse range of films/TV shows. So what do you look for when you are looking for a project to work on? I used to think that the most important thing on any prospective project was the story/film itself but over the years I've learnt that what is equally important (rather obviously) is the filmmaker who you'll be working with. There are some pretty good scripts out there, some pretty good films, that have directors that are simply not on your radar at all, I mean creatively, emotionally, artistically. And then there are films that may or may not be entirely your cup of tea (or so you first think) but the filmmaker is very much on your radar and you find yourself trusting them completely creatively and artistically. Those are the ones worth exploring. Trust, like in any relationship, is the basis for a great and fruitful collaboration. Ben is a filmmaker like that for me. André and Andreas, the Swedish filmmakers I mentioned earlier, are as well. The common thing in both (and others as well) is that they can see through you and your own insecurities about a piece of music you've written or a scene you've worked on. And they can sense it without you mentioning anything. They can hear where you're confident and where you need help and guidance and they give it to you. Gerhard is like this as well. It's a strange kind of chemistry that isn't always apparent or easy to find so I count myself very lucky to have met and had the opportunity to collaborate with a handful of these over the years. I usually try to start with a conversation, as most things do for me. I want to get to know them, their tastes, what they're trying to achieve, what kind of story they're trying to tell and obviously try to gauge how well they can tell it whether by viewing their previous work, reading the script, viewing rough footage if they've already shot etc. Then I follow my gut and theirs as well of course.
What would you say has been the most challenging project for you to work on so far, and why? At the moment it's this upcoming piano album I'm working on with concert pianist Christopher McKiggan. Partially because whatever I'm currently working on is always the most challenging because there's no short cut to finding what works each time. It's always from scratch. Using what worked last time almost never yields anything satisfactory and if anything gets boring and trite very fast. It's always about sneaking up to it somehow. You know subconsciously what you're after (if you don't you're in trouble) and it's about finding a way to it without staring it down; that usually never works. It's a balance between just sitting there and doing the work and taking a step back and letting it come to you when you're not thinking about it. Not putting in enough work and you're never going to push it forward, but work yourself to death in front of the machine without letting your mind rest and come to realizations naturally also hurts. It's always a balancing act. The other reason why this particular one is challenging is because there isn't an inherent story like most of what I do so finding the impetus for a scene so to speak, the arc, the trajectory, is always interesting because in this case it's following purely your own emotional instincts rather than that of a character's. It's a little like finding your way in pitch darkness, learning to use your other senses more than the one you normally rely on for direction.
What's the most rewarding part about what you do? When you can step back from a piece, give it some space and come back to it and it surprises you and you cannot remember writing that, or how. That to me is the most rewarding moment. When a piece surprises you and you feel like you're meeting this person for the first time. People often talk about a piece of art taking on a life of its own, and to a certain extent that's what I look for. You are indeed the creator but at the end of the day it needs to be able to stand on its own two feet and no amount of propping up or intellectual justification will work (or matter) in the end.
What else can we expect to see from you as a composer in 2018? Well the goal is to wrap the piano album within the year and I'm currently working on a new project with André (Hedetoft) set in the world of his upcoming feature film, Finns Här Några Snälla Barn. There are a few other projects on the horizon but that's all I can talk about for the moment.
Why bother with Merchandise? Article by Dave Wright
I speak to a lot of bands about Merchandise and when I do I find myself not trying to sell the merch I produce but explaining why merchandise is a good idea in general... First of all let me introduce myself, I’m Dave (Moomin) and I run Moomin Merchandise. I have spent the last few years working in the music industry making Merchandise for bands, artist and festivals such as Linkin Park, Ed Sheeran, Bloodstock and Techfest. This puts me in a unique position to be able to answer the question “Why bother with Merchandise?” I may appear to be a little bias but let me explain why I believe Merch is something all good bands should be selling. This applies to all forms of physical merchandise from CDs (EPs or albums), screen printed clothing, or any other form of branded Merchandise. There are three main things I would like to mention when it comes to the question of “Why bother with Merchandise?” They are Money, Reach and Image. All three of these things are vital for a band to be successful and the more of them you have the easier your musical career will be. Money: This one should be fairly obvious so I’m not going to delve very deep with it. Bands are expensive hobbies, once you have paid for your instruments you still have the constant outgoings of practice rooms, studio time, fuel to keep you on the road and if you can find the money a good PR campaign. As a musician you will know first hand there is very little money to be made touring and in most cases any size tour for an unsigned band will probably be running at a loss. In short it costs you money to go out on tour and perform. This is the price you pay for doing what you love, but that price can at least be reduced with a good selection of merchandise. If you do merch right it should not cost you money, quite the opposite. A well run merch stall, even for unsigned bands can take in hundreds of pounds per show. The merch sales will help towards the touring expenses of fuel and food and if done well can turn a good profit to put money towards the new album or the next tour. To be blunt, money makes the world go round and merch makes you money. It’s that simple Reach: Reach is a term mostly associated with social media but there are real world applications of this term too. Your band, the music you make, the shows you perform and your online presence can be thought of as a brand. Reach is the number of people exposed to your brand. The more reach you have the more people are seeing your brand. This makes you more likely to be noticed by people who will become fans, merchandise is a great way to expand this reach.
If someone buys a t-shirt with your logo at one of your shows they will most likely wear it and tell their friends about when they bought it and how great the show was. People will see them wearing it at gigs and when you next play a show close to them they will remember the logo and maybe come along to support you. If you have a merch stall it will need to be manned, normally by you, the band. This means at least one of the band will be accessible to people at the gig and they will be able to come and speak to you directly. This will break down the barriers between the band and the potential fans and can also be a great tool for networking with other bands and promoters. In short It gives you a home base at the gig where people can find you. Another great way to improve your reach is to throw out freebies at the end of your set. Branded plectrums and drum sticks work particularly well. If someone goes home from a gig they enjoyed with a souvenir it will most likely be displayed at their house along with their old gig tickets and they will be far more likely to make the effort to go and see you again. It becomes a talking point with your band being the subject, this works the same with any merch with your logo. Basically the more people who see your logo the more â€œknownâ€? you will become. Image: The image of your band is very important. If you appear to be professional, turn up on time, play well and support the other bands you will be far more likely to be invited back to play another gig. Word travels fast in the music industry and if a band shows that they are going above and beyond then they will find many doors opening to them through promoters networking and word of mouth. Remember promoters talk to each other and if they like you they will tell people, on the flip side if you turn up late or are generally not nice to work with, word will get around and the gigs will stop being offered. If a band turn up to a gig and lay out an impressive looking merch stall they immediately look like a professional band who know what they are doing. Before you even step on the stage the audience see a band who are going the extra mile and will be looking forward to seeing you perform. If you look and act like a band who are going places you are far more likely to succeed. Image is everything if you are working in the public eye and the power of a professional image should not be underestimated. Taking all of this into account I believe even the smallest and most casual of bands should have at least a small selection of Merch. So why bother with Merchandise for your band? In short because it will make you money, win you fans and make you look good!
Money Left To Burn VS The Affect Heuristic I have always enjoyed split records, you are often guaranteed a bands best work as it will be hard by fans of both and it is a great chance to get across to a new audience that perhaps may not otherwise hear you. Both bands bring their A game to this one, Money Left To Burn open with a banging skate punk song that wanders into hardcore territory at times, ‘Parallels’ is energetic and sets the tone well as ‘Scent Of Salt’ keeps up the pace. The basslines are punchy and add nice melodies while holding the rhythm down with the drums as well. The Nuremburg band tackle the social issues in the lyrics in an assured and confident way and when they break out the guitar harmonies in the stand out track ‘Modern Slavery’ they show they have more in the barrel to call upon. So, it is time for Belgian/Scots, The Affect Heuristic to take their bow and they begin with a just as in your face opener in the form of ‘Against The Grain’. It is fast and furious with melodies flying all over the place. There is a more metal influence on this managing to fire in some thrash like gallops in amongst the punk back bone. ‘Tightrope’ pushes the metal harder than on their opener but they still manage to keep the balance between the two distinct, the vocals hit some great high notes before ‘Who, Me’ continues with the drums hitting break neck speed amongst the catchy melodies. These guys have a great sound, closer, ‘Vessel’ is a banger that owes a bit more to hardcore than metal and in the same way as Money Left To Burn they show there is more to call upon on future recordings. A strong split album with two bands that fit well together, fine efforts from both. AN
Dark Stares - Darker Days Are Here To Stay Down and dirty is how I would describe at first listen to opening track ‘Liquid Rain’, it is a moody start, the vocals echo along the catchy groove. I say catchy but in actual fact it is a deeply infectious low end rumble that keeps the foot tapping in unison, the fact that the song does pretty much the same thing until 40 seconds to the end when the guitar solo kicks in is testament to what an outstanding groove it really is. ‘Sweet Rider 5’ seems to follow the same pattern, proving that sometimes simplicity can be a great thing by allowing the bass and the vocals to take you and just letting it flow. It is raw, I often bang on about todays production values of having everything sound so perfect it could have come from God himself, these guys are raw. It creates extra atmosphere and depth, it is rough and doesn’t sound perfect. That makes it sound far better, if this was polished, then I think songs like ‘Pedal Pusher’ and ‘Darker Days’ would lose their depth and at times menacing emotion that flows from Mile Kristian Howells voice. ‘Ordinary Way’ rings out like a rare beam of light, it has a more upbeat tempo, the guitar taken a more prominent role than at other points on the record, it is kept simple but it stamps a very clear mark on the song almost like a backing vocal is the best way I can describe it. There are elements of numerous influences on the record ‘Animal’ has a hint of Queens of the Stone Age, ‘Sweet Rider 5’ has moments that take me back to Marilyn Manson, even a bit of The Cure at times but they are only influences, they have something which has a defined signature to it. Songs like ‘Hips Don’t Shake’ and ‘Cruise Control’ provide nice shifts in tone and pace when it is needed and ‘Their Game’ is probably the albums stand out track. The album does exactly what it says in the title, there is a definite feeling with events at home and abroad that darker days are indeed here to stay, Dark Stares have captured something very special with this debut album. Dark Stares may have just captured a moment in time, a snap shot of our world in 2018. AN
Hercules Morse - Vita Boundary Southampton riff machine Hercules Morse deliver an outstanding set of pure rock, one that brings an up to date sound but manages to sound like they could have been spawned in the 70s era of rock finding its feet and evolving its sound. Opening with a bang in the shape of ‘Everything’s Great’ they are full throttle from the start with a melodic grooving banger that hooks you in straight away, melody proves an important element throughout as it provides the back bone of everything they do. Shredding solos and thundering grooves are constant and allow the vocal to do its thing. ‘War Within’ bounces along with a staccato punch and at times has me thinking of Queens of the Stone Age, lyrically this one has a bit of despair about it, “I Can’t help feeling I’ve wrecked my life” is probably a feeling most have had at one point or another, it is fairly bleak but it is still gripping. Again, the QOTSA influence comes out with ‘Cuckoo’ but that is soon forgotten with the quality hook of the chorus, it is simple, but it does the job as it is hard to forget, it’ll have audiences singing it back in no time. That is exactly the hook you want! The band are finding themselves in good company at the moment with appearances on Planet Rock, Kerrang and even BBC radio, with about half the album listened to then they are very well deserving. They are a little different to other bands out there just now and that will help them no end. They have the songs, the ability to put them together and the talent to go far, they can name drop some massive bands they have shared a stage with and they wouldn’t be joining them if they didn’t deserve to, here’s hoping this first album is the first on the road to becoming a big name. AN
The Wombats - Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life On this eleven track piece from The Wombats, ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ brings about a dance-alternative feel to their unique tracks. ‘Lethal Combination’ was by far my favourite track, channeling a Weezer-esque sound that took its time in building up to the chorus and a steady one-two rhythm. The lyrical content of this track especially seemed to take a twist on a Weezer-like approach, but in a totally new way that only was reminiscent of the band as opposed to copycat. It was not the most dance-able track on the album which is one of the biggest reasons why I felt it stood out. Most of the tracks on this album are more on the “poppy” side and are soundscapes designed to move your feet in some way. ‘Lethal Combination’ is more of a slow sway. Not only is this more of a vibe that I just particularly prefer, but it does make this track stand out against the otherwise catchy and upbeat backdrop of the other tracks. ‘Turn’ for example, was one of the more dance-able songs, with a light and airy chorus to contrast stripped down verses with a subtle synth and percussion. The album finishes up with ‘I Don’t Know Why I Like You but I Do’ which I found rounded out the overall sound of the album extremely well. It begins at a slower pace, with a simple bass line and percussion. As it moves into the chorus, more notes of earthly tones are layered in and wrap up the sound of the group well as a piece to represent their artist identity. I was not a huge fan of the opening track, ‘Cheetah Tongue’ as I found the intro a bit jarring and the pre-chorus didn’t set up the chorus well to move into the procession of the song. That being said, as I went through the album I found that I liked it more than my initial impression of the full length. While I’m not always a huge fan of alt-rock, I found myself (a girl after heavier tunes and breakdowns) pleasantly surprised. Even though my first impression via the opening track was not the best, I did quite enjoy myself as I went through all eleven tracks. LD
American Nightmare - Self-titled As a lover of most of the core genres, (yes, I am a core kid… I invite you to judge me, as I judge myself on a near daily basis) I was excited to hear that these hardcore guys were on my assignments list since they’ve been around since ‘99 and Boston hardcore seemed like a pretty dang good idea right? Wrong. I found it hard to get through even one track on the album, and for a multitude of reasons. The vocals were sloppy and lackluster on every track, it seemed to me as someone was nailing a harsh whisper behind the mic without any of the angst and energy that hardcore is all about. I found the soundscape regarding the guitars to be extremely similar in transition from track to track which is one of the biggest “no-no’s” on my list. If I played each song right after another without any pause in-between, it would sound like one long track. Where’s the energy? The diversity? As a band that has been kicking around for many years (despite their breakup and reformation) I had high hopes for some solid, old school hardcore but instead felt like I was treated to a newbie band that froze at their first show and barely scratched together some of their tracks to fill the empty space that hung in the air. While barely adequate is still adequate, I was hoping and wishing for something more. It just needed that extra push or extra oomph that would tip it over the adequacy edge and into the “This is a decent listen” territory at least. LD
Gutlocker - Cry Havoc! First of all, with a name like Gutlocker, how can you go wrong? In my world, you literally can’t. I crave the feeling of pure aggression, I feed off of it-- I may be a psychopath, but it comes in handy when you get shoved into a pit by accident, or throw yourself in on purpose against the advice of your friends. ‘Cry Havoc!’ hit near every mark on my list of good listens, nailing thrash grooves and killer vocals. Although I wish that the vocals had a bit more finesse and a tad of polishing, there is something about pure gnarly vocals that have next to no tone that add to the charm of a hardcore thrash-esque album. If there were any more polish to the vocals I have a feeling it may take away from the overall experience of the EP. ‘Bitter Memory’ kills the opening track as a downright nasty track, and a raised flag to any of you thrash fans out there. ‘No Burden’ slows it down a tad with a groovier riff style, and tempo which complements the progression of the EP as it points to care taken in the songwriting to stay true to the identity of the artist and EP but diversifying the sound. ‘Stuck’ digs an even groovier sound set in the intro that is drum heavy yet moves into a rolling riffscape. ‘Welcome to F*cktown’ is basically everything I have ever wanted in a song to complement my road rage, and promises that by the end you will probably want to rip someone’s head off. Don’t actually do that kids. The promised release date of this killer EP is the long awaited April 20th, which I am lucky enough to have skipped to get to review this EP. For those of you that are set to get down to some groovy, killer riffs and gnarly vocals, ‘Cry Havoc!’ is going to be the release for you. LD
Siren's Breath - Beautiful Aftermath Siren’s Breath debut record, ‘Beautiful Aftermath’, takes the listener on a sweeping journey through their literary world. Employing elements of psychedelic, 60s-70s era sounding guitars with moody and emotional vocals. The band uses a lot of literary references, from tracks titled after Harry Potter references and the oldest book in English literature. The band clearly took care in the recording process of the record from the classic rock and roll sound of the instruments and clever lyrics delivered in a style ala Janis Joplin or Stevie Nicks. MC
Dashboard Confessional - Crooked Shadows As a longtime fan of Dashboard Confessional, sometimes hearing change from a band as influential as they are feels a little jarring. ‘Crooked Shadows’ is a major departure from their original sound in the early 00s, but it is apt for modern pop rock ears. Though Dashboard Confessional has never strayed from pop conventions, they certainly employ the same electronic elements and synths common across nearly all pop friendly music currently. There’s still the same levity in the instrumentation on this record that was common across in their earlier work, the mood of the lyrics has changed, however. Instead of their usual heartbroken lyrics over an acoustic guitar, vocalist and lyricist, Chris Carrabba, is much more commanding in both tone and message. The record opens with the track ‘We Fight,’ a song about perseverance and growing up, where Carrabba’s voice is much more in your face and energetic in a different way than I’ve heard from this band. Overall, this record is an interesting move for this band, especially since this is their first release in almost 10 years. MC
Lee Aaron - Diamond Baby Blues Rock legend Lee Aaron has returned with what might be some of her best work in decades. Aaron has seemed to have found her center and sound since her iconic days of Metal Queen. No longer tied down by those days, her artistic vision has flourished once more. The new album ‘Diamond Baby Blues’ is a mixture of hard rock, blues, and a splash of rock and roll classic sounds from the 60s and 70s music scene. It’s pretty clear that Lee Aaron wanted to bring back a sound that has been lost for quite some time and ‘Diamond Baby Blues’ does this and more. The album starts off with some pretty energetic tracks such as ‘Diamond Baby’, ‘Mistreated’, that are energetic as well as empowering. As a woman that is a mother now and has been through a lot life and career wise, it shows that motherhood has not changed how powerful she is lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally. She truly embraces the fact that she’s still got it all and then some.
‘American High’ seems to be a tribute to music and to America as well. As a place that has a melting pot for all walks of life especially musically within the rock genre, ‘American High’ seems to take all those things and put them into a track. We then jump back into another empowering track ‘I’m a Woman’, a track that shows her strength as a vocalist whilst she embraces her hard rock roots lyrically and instrumentally. Mid-album we dive into a slower and more emotional style that serves as a nice palette cleanser from the heavier tracks. The album then goes back into rock of the 70s and 80’s with ‘Black Cat’ , ‘Hard Road’, and ‘In the Bedroom’. However, each track differs in terms of instrumental sound, constantly changing it up to relieve it from any possible boredom throughout the album experience. The lyricism still remains strong throughout these few tracks still keeping in lynch with the self aware message of women empowerment. Out of the last few tracks ‘My Babe’ stands out due to its infectious guitar grooves that is sure to become another hit on the album. Overall, this album is a nice solid comeback for the rock goddess that fans will enjoy from the well-written lyrics, layered vocals, and amazing instrumentals throughout. SA
Feed The Rhino - The Silence “Mirror, mirror, mirror, mirror, mirror on my f***ing wall” – yes that’s right it’s Kent five-piece post hard-core rockers in the reflection smashing the binaries of the hard-core genre. Feed The Rhino bring back the early noughties alternative rock era with epic guitar solos and progressive - almost soulful vocals, perfectly aligned with head banging riffs and brutal – “don’t mess with us” screams. Feed The Rhino are back on the scene with their captivating anger-fuelled passion featuring in the opening track ‘Timewave Zero’. Already they have achieved a solid reputation for their energetic in-your-face live performances causing mosh pit mayhem. This album is going to cause the most chaos live yet with its abundance of fierce vocals a perfect balance of aggressive and gentle tones. Warning tracks like ‘All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy’ will cause you a brain haemorrhage with its destructive breakdowns and lead vocalist Lee Tobin’s belligerent vocals. If that’s not enough to make your brain bleed the startling guitar solos in the track ‘Yellow and Green’ will leave you breathless. ‘The Silence’ is an impressive release following the success of ‘The Sorrow and the Sound’ album, the lads have been quiet for the past few years and boy it was worth the wait. Feed The Rhino are a force to be reckoned with on record and live. Ironically silence is not the reaction this album has been receiving on their current UK headline tour. SC
Reggie and The Full Effect - 41 Get up Kid’s keyboard player’s side project isn’t as “emo” as you’d expect it to be. Dewees side project Reggie and The Full Effect has been quiet for the past few years since his last release ‘No Country For Old Musicians’ back in 2013. The new release ‘41’ is The Cure meets Taking Back Sunday with a bit of Wham’s pop synths and unexpected humour thrown in for good measure. Despite the various influences it’s not as confusing as it sounds (I don’t think). You will be pleasantly surprised by some of the tracks featured on this experimental album. ‘41’ is diverse to say the least, its intriguing right from the eerie classical opera intro right through to the skit track ‘Trap(ing) Music feat: Common Denominator’. Whether it’s 80s sythns, emo or love ballads that you enjoy, there is something for everyone. If you are a fan of My Chemical Romance there are elements in tracks like ‘The Horrible Year’ that have a “Black Parade” type vibe. In contrast you have the track ‘New Years Day’ - a slower love ballad accompanied by keyboards and dulling vocals. Listening to ‘41’ can feel like somewhat of a timewarp, sometimes you almost expect Morrissey to appear as a guest vocalist. Don’t forget about the ‘Channing Tatum Space Rollerblading Montage Music’ featured on ‘41’ which sums up the record quite nicely. It may leave you rather disorientated and question what on earth is happening but, will also leave you fascinated and maybe even laughing (in a good way). SC
Funeral Shakes - Self-titled Founding members of the popular rock n roll band The Smoking Hearts - Calvin Roffey (bass/vocals) and Simon Barker (guitar) release their debut album under the new name Funeral Shakes. The guys followed their own ambition of new innovate melodies steering away from the safe rock n roll direction of The Smoking Hearts. After demoing in Watford the duo were joined by Gallows drummer Lee Barratt and guitarist/vocalist Em Foster from the indie punk band Nervus. Although the melodies aren’t unusual for the indie genre, Em’s gravely vocals give Funeral Shakes the edge they were hoping for. Repetitive upbeat chords are featured throughout the tracks in the Self-Titled album – heard in tracks like ‘The Motions’ that draws you in with its Two Door Cinema Club type happy-go-lucky beat – it’s catchy and the guitar solos throughout combined with Em’s boisterous vocals makes it a lot more appealing than most tracks on the album. None of the tracks feel particularly memorable or revolutionary but, it does feel like Funeral Shakes are on to something with the addition of Em and Lee’s punk backgrounds which adds an edge that works well for them. The track ‘Circles’ reveals this punk effect with harsher vocals harmonised well with softer vocals you can imagine it would go down a treat live. SC
The Dark Light - Keep Off The Grass London based rock band The Dark Light formed in early 2016 out of lead/rhythm guitarist Marco Simoncelli’s love for rock and roll. Marco joined with vocalist Gerard Edwards, bassist Sonny Moylan, drummer Henning Brand and guitarist Roberto Cicorella to create a pure rock band influenced by a series of classic artists – right back to the Rolling Stones and The Beatles all the way to the 90s legends Oasis. This passion for rock and roll is clear throughout the album; tracks like ‘To The Sky’ have the ability to make you fall in love with rock again. Like a few tracks on the album love songs are definitely on the agenda, ‘Under The Skin’ is a particularly captivating romantic ballad as Gerald’s delicate, grasping vocals reflect the slow chords and beautiful solo’s seamlessly.
‘Keep Off The Grass’ is a faultless, beautifully arranged album fuelled with a passion that fills the absence of classic rock on the market. If you are a fan of good old fashioned British rock and roll then this is not one to miss! SC
HarryBigButton - Man of Spirit It’s not every day you see a post hard rock band come out of South Korea but, popular Korean band Harrybigbutton have released their second full-length album ‘Man of Spirit’ to the world. Former member of Crash and sPooN, Sungsoo Lee shows off his powerful vocals throughout the album. Sungsoo’s mature; pleasantly surprising voice captivates you right from the opening track ‘Man of Spirit’. Following the success of their debut album ‘King’s Life’ in 2012, the three-piece have become front runners of the major music festival scenes across Korea. Despite their success in shaking up the Korean rock scene they haven’t quite managed to break through to international audiences yet. However, the recent release ‘Man of Spirit’ proves Harrybigbutton have a worthy place on festival stages all around the world. The appropriately named track ‘Circle Pit’ will unleash chaos live with its fast paced riffs, monstrous guitar solos that are followed by the lyrics “You can run but you can’t hide”. Packed with heavy head banging riffs and mature melodies ‘Man of Spirit’ has the potential to give the Seoul based band a push in the direction of worldwide success and fandom. This is definitely a band to keep on your radar. SC
Desolation Angels - KING Over 20 years ago childhood friends Robin Brancher and Keith Sharp both keen guitarists joined with drummer John Graham and bassist Joe Larner to play their own part in the new wave of British heavy metal. After advertising for a vocalist in Melody Maker the Desolation Angels arrangement was complete and ready to rock. Although after 27 years the set-up has reformed with Clive Pearson on bass, Chris Takka on drums and Paul Taylor doing vocals, Desolation Angels are still doing what they know best – sharing their straight edge classic rock to the world. The recent release of the album ‘KING’ continues to follow these expected classic rock traits of twin guitar harmonies and heavy riffs, it’s evident Desolation Angels aren’t going to change their ways anytime soon.
To a degree the nine-track album ‘KING’ feels outdated with these conventional heavy metal riffs and leads. ‘KING’ is predictable. Having said this the now LA-based band has gained a tight-knit of fans over the years in both America and in the UK, continuing to tour world wide – so why fix it if it’s not broken? Listening to ‘KING’ is a trip down memory lane, so what are you waiting for grab your leathers and bring your dad to air guitar along with the beasty guitar solos in the track ‘Hellfire’. SC
Værisa - Heliograph Crossing boundaries of different genres Canadian two-piece Værisa release their first EP and it shows huge potential. Forming back in 2016 the duo Værisa made up of Kierah Taylor (vocals) and Zeke Mountain (instruments) has a goal not only to create music that’s unique, but also music that will open up audience’s senses and they wish to share it with the world. The intriguing eerie piano combined with Kierah’s enchanting vocals in the opening track ‘Atlantis’ transports you to a dreamland. Værisa are so much more than a combination of symphonies, classical instruments and metal. ‘Heliograph’ brings the orchestral metal genre relevant to the here and now by adding an electro twist. Featured in the track ‘Ambrosia’ which begins with an almost electro-pop style synths backed with violins followed by strong vocals to a similar style of Lindsay Sterling vocals. With bands like PVRIS’s achieving huge success then the time is definitely now for more experimental female-fronted bands like Værisa. ‘Heliograph’ is a refreshing contrast of classic operatic metal and current electro-rock. SC
Afrockaine - Revival Afrockaine is a rock band from Algeria that formed in 2009. Fairly new to the music scene, the band released the album ‘Nomad’ in 2012. Now after six years the band has released another album this year. The band is comprised of Sid, Yoy, Khadir Ahmed and Nazim. With sounds similar to alternative rock bands in the mid-90s, Afrocaine brings back the powerful, rustic, versatile vocals that have been somewhat lost within recent years, and great guitar vibes that are transcending. Taking us back to nostalgic distorted alternative and hard rock guitars with a splash of rhythm from the desert. ‘Revival’ is a new unique, expressive rock experience. With the band in 2014 reaching number one on music charts in the Algerian music scene, it’s easy to see why this band is garnering so much attention as of late. The band has a really nice blend of African and Maghreb cultures in their music, without jeopardizing their traditional sounds of percussion found in classical, alternative and hard rock. ‘Revival’ starts off with heavy alternative hard rock tracks from ‘We’re Back’ to ‘By My Side’ that are bound to get fans old and new into an uncommon musical experience. The record then slows down with a raw and emotional track ‘Angel’ and towards the end ‘Fallin’, a perfect place midway and closing to serve as a pallet cleanser from the harder tracks previously heard in the album. ‘Ya Nar’ is one of the more risky and memorable tracks on the album where the vocalist changes the waters lyrically using a different language on a record that is primarily English. This is by no means a terrible thing, as it truly embraces a different sound that some will appreciate and find admirable for a band to take such a risk. It is different artistically, but does have a home on this album instrumentally as it maintains the energy of the last few tracks that were presented on the album previously. ‘African Sacred Fire’ is another unconventional memorable track on the album that holds no musical boundaries, connecting classical rock melodies with the exotic percussive African elements. It’s a track that stands out among the rest blending many different genres into a music track but still maintains a hard rock intensity. The last few tracks on the album take us comfortably back to the energy experienced in the album before. Overall, the album takes us on this interesting, impressive, and multicultural musical journey that should be appreciated. It will ultimately put this band on the map as a must listen to act for alternative and hard rock fans this month. SA
Determination - Symbiosis Determination is a melodic death metal band from Rostock, Germany. With a genre that has bands that typically sound the same instrumentally, this band has come to put life back into the genre again with its progressive, dynamic sound, with brutal vocals and epic guitar melodies. Determination is proving that you can change the genre when it comes to their energetic harsh vocals and hard melodic instrumental energy. What immediately stands out about this band is their diversity in their sound instrumentally. The fluidity of their musical movement keeps each track an immersive interesting listening experience. The guitarist should be applauded for this whole album. Some tracks that will become instant favourites are ‘Wareligion’ and ‘Pestilence’ which has a nice mix and melodic and brutal energy instrumentally with some very hard hitting lyrics.The album is comprised of nine tracks, each one being drastically different from the last. A major problem within modern death metal is that most tend to sound the same and lack any qualities that make them stand out musically. This isn't true for most bands, but there is a saturation in many different music genres that make it impossible to find something different that steps beyond the musical bar at times. Determination prove that you can take a specific genre and make it different without jeopardizing your fans or your sound. Overall the album is great in terms of musicianship, the use of percussion styles and fantastic use of guitar interwoven throughout the album are something to be rivaled in the current death metal scene. This is a band that isn’t to be missed and are a must listen for those really invested in the genre. SA
Matthew North - Still Thinking Still Dreaming Matthew North is a guitarist, composer, producer and singer based in the South West of England. Best known as the lead guitarist and founder member of the bands All Living Fear, Secrets For September as well as current guitarist for British jazz legend Mike Westbrook, Matthew North seems to be going on a solo music path this time around with ‘Still thinking, Still Dreaming’. Matthew has been sharing the stage with the likes of Michael Chapman, Nick Harper & Ruarri Joseph. Most people will like North’s soft and dynamic sound. With a sound that is very much akin to The Beatles, North’s musical sound is a breath of fresh air in the current rock genre climate. In recent years it seems that Matthew has been working to build up his career as a solo singer songwriter. Inspired by his friend Nick Pynn, his music features a looped guitar and bass pedals live to give his sound a larger feel. This presence is also felt immensity on his solo project, as the guitar sounds very rich and easy on the ears. Some tracks that stand out on this album are ‘Blue Sky’, where the guitar has this full and rich softness to it with its lyrics that pack an emotional punch. ‘Just Can’t See’ and ‘Fortunes Light’ is a nice change of pace towards the middle of the album where North includes a violin with its musical track, giving the track a bit of body and diversity from the previous tracks. Overall the album is a nice break from traditional harder sounds in rock and the thought provoking lyrics give this album a reason for people to give this solo artist a chance. At times the vocals fall flat in some areas, but it doesn't take away from the obvious talent of this debuting solo artist. The amazing work instrumentally does tremendous work in all areas making this an awesome musical experience for those that are into softer shades of the rock genre! SA
Turnstile - Time and Space Successful 5 piece band Turnstile has had quite the surprising call to fame, creating a taste for hardcore and hip-hop that hasn’t resurfaced till now for quite some time. Their EP ‘Nonstop Feeling’ took them to great heights with its younger fan base. But with the latest third installment ‘Time and Space’, the currently signed Warner Brothers band seems to be going through a growth phase in their latest album, with a theme that seems generally uncertain and unfocused. While there are quite a few songs that were genuinely not terrible, there seems to be a lot going on that seems out of place. The album lacks continuity, with embellishments for the sake of forcefully showing change and not necessarily for the organic original thought of taking musical ricks. While tracks like ‘Right to Be’ are fun to listen to at first, the random use of synthesizers is simply not needed for such a record and winds up sounding like added on randomness just for the sake of instrumental difference. Fans will be happily surprised at the 25 second R+B interlude ‘Bomb’ which echoes back to the bands hit ‘You Dropped a Bomb On Me’ but simply doesn’t do enough to be considered a successful change of pace for the rest of the album. As if this detour isn't enough to confuse some listeners ‘Disco’ is another interlude that doesn’t do this album any favours. It seems questionable to add such a track, since none of the songs including this were relatively inspired by the disco musical genre. The imagery and marketing behind this as well also falls short of being impressive to say the least and doesn’t help to cover up the already obvious misplaced musical direction in this album. Even with all of this taken out of context, the whole musical experience seems nothing more than a crossover musical experimentation with some textbook nods to the hardcore genre and its fans. It tries to take it to the next level, but most tracks fall short of that in some shape or form throughout the album. However we do get some occasional gems from this record such as ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Blind’ , ‘Generator’, and ‘Moon’ that rescue the album from sinking itself into this hole of stale conventionalism and confusion. While the album itself is unadventurous in many of its parts, there are some songs that are worth listening to that show charisma and unique taste, showing that the album at least deserves a listen or two! SA
Midnight Crisis - Heart Beatings Who are Midnight Crisis? Well according to the band they create “Dark Deep Dirty Post-Punk Hard Rock” music. As bizarre as that description seems, to a degree it is understandable – after listening to their latest release ‘Heart Beatings’ it genuinely feels like you should be dressed in black, swaying uncomfortably (because you are too cool to dance) in a dark deep dirty basement in the rough part of Brooklyn. Take track ‘Sister Vicodin’ for example it opens with croaky vocals of lead singer Marty E. The tracks tend to merge into one, long and often agonising one where nothing stands out as revolutionary. It is a shame Midnight Crisis didn’t focus on the musical talent of their influences like Guns and Roses who broke down boundaries of the music scene with talented guitar solos and won the hearts of fans with a song writing style people could relate and sing to – rather than trying too hard to sound cool. ‘Heart Beatings’ is chaotic, but not in the way you want it to be, it does have an old school punk vibe to it, that isn’t for everyone. Despite their attempt I’m not entirely sure it’s the beginning of a rock n roll apocalypse. SC
For Twisted Wheel, snakes and ladders is not just a board game, it’s a CV. Born in the backwaters of Oldham in 2007, the young band, fronted by the feral, precocious Jonny Brown, roared into the race of indie rock with such anthems as ‘You Stole The Sun’, ‘She’s a Weapon’ and ‘Lucy The Castle’. Their irrepressible energy and ability to deliver inspired rock’n’roll gained them the support slots with Oasis, Kasabian, Paul Weller, The Courteeners, The Happy Mondays and Ian Brown to name but a few, as well as sell-outs on their first UK and European tours. Twisted Wheel has indeed rocked and rolled, been smashed up, fallen off the wagon, gone solo, kicked to the kerb – before finding its groove and getting back on it, full speed ahead. The unlikely combination of elegance and raw inspiration, the familiar coupled with the random, make Twisted Wheel an undeniably popular act that delivers the goods in a way few bands can. But ‘Snakes and Ladders’ is a tour and album far closer to the bone than anything previous. The band has grown up and Brown’s song structures and lyrics are on another level, beyond haggard experience now, worn in with wisdom and wit. As he says: “The song ‘Smash It Up’ epitomised me. I set out to do things and was on the road comfortably and then I turned off and smashed it to bits. I get stuck into things with a passion and then I have to destroy it when the passion’s gone. Mess everything up so that I’m free again to reinvent, create.” And ‘Snakes and Ladders’ is frankly about the band blowing the ladders of opportunity they were given – and the snakes which led to them falling off the board. It’s a tour about getting back in the game, finding opportunity again and avoiding those slithery serpents. Twisted Wheel is back like a man from the dead and with tunes to make up for the time lost. The Oldham four spoker sees the return of Twisted Wheel’s original drummer Adam Clarke, new members Richard Allsopp ( Guitar) Harry Lavin (Bass) and Jonny Brown ( Guitar/Vocals) The band have a gang of songs above and beyond their previous best, recording at a studio in Manchester as this goes to press. A new UK tour starts in April with singles dropping in late May and July , festivals booked and a further tour before the album release in the autumn. The band built a great foundation through the Grass Route venues which were the genuine ladders through which Twisted Wheel gained its success. A decade later, and they are still how Twisted Wheel gain access to the game – this time avoiding the pitfalls. The tours are selling far better than we imagined with many venues either already sold out or about to sell out. We also have some massive support slots to announce very soon!! Twisted Wheel were one of the hardest working bands in 2009, gaining the PRS Award for playing the most gigs of any young band. They are grafters, rock n rollers but with the edge of genuine poetry; few can forget Jonny’s ‘Bouncing Bomb’ or ‘What’s Your Name?’ but audiences will be hungry for his more poignant blues numbers on this tour. “We’re not just in a rock ‘n’ roll, punk box. I write a range of songs. This time, more of my poetry will come out which focuses on things that matter, a commentary on what’s going on in the world. Bands play it safe because they don’t want to upset people. But your job as an artist is to say what others can’t, to speak the truth.” Twisted Wheel – it may have been bad, bent and broken but it’s back, a band with integrity, fun and experienced authority. For tickets:
Skiddle.com Seetickets.com/tour/twisted-wheel Facebook.com/twistedwheel ‘Oh What Have You Done’ Youtube.com/watch?v=jXKabA_05-U
For The Fallen Dreams - Six Forming back in 2003, Michigan born band For The Fallen Dreams despite major lineup changes has made quite the successful comeback in February. With a series of EP’s that led to full length albums like ‘Changes’ to ‘Heavy Hearts’ in 2014, the band ultimately ghosted its many fans for four years after its last album. Many thought the band would never return after many years of silence. The band had shared the stage with many fantastic bands such as Motionless in White, A Day To Remember, Fit For A King, The Ghost Inside, Norma Jean, Chelsea Grin, and many other greats within the genre. A band with so much positive credibility was a hard pill to swallow when they decided to call it quits. Now in 2018, the Michigan band has seemed to work out its technical issues and has made quite the debut back into the music scene. The 10 song album features a huge dose of hardcore influence along with its established roots of metalcore. This album is full of layers musically, vocally, and lyrically and should not be missed by old and new fans alike. Fiery infectious tracks like ‘Stone’, are sure to pull in the old and new fans as the track is a terrific combination of their old and new music material. Proving that the band still has what it takes to make a heavy record without jeopardizing their aggressive style musically. It’s a song that proves that despite the elder ship of this band within the genre, they still have what it takes to make a good metalcore record and do it right. Even with softer songs on the album, For The Fallen Dreams doesn’t seem to lose its footing pace-wise through the record. Tracks like ‘Two Graves’ show that the band hasn’t really changed at all in terms of manipulating clean melodic guitar riffs while still maintaining the energy of an obviously heavy influenced project. Chad’s vocals throughout the album are impressive, always having these chameleon-like changes within each track. It definitively shows the various layers and talent this vocalist really brings to this band as a whole. This in turn makes each track really interesting to listen to, making for a different satisfying musical experience. Ultimately, it’s very surprising how well his vocals fit in with its traditional harsh only vocals and gives depth and body to each track as a whole. Fans will be pleasantly surprised with the amount of predecessor material the band gives nods to vibe wise throughout the album such as ‘Changes’ ‘Backburner’ and ‘Wasted Youth’ with a bit of a modern twist. It’s for the fans that have been there since day one “We haven’t forgotten about you”. Though the album could have had more of a melodic influence within its tracks, this is a very strong comeback for the band and will hopefully lead to more albums in the near future. SA
Table Scraps - Autonomy I wish that this album grabbed me the way it was intended to. These guys obviously have such a unique artist identity with a “down and dirty” style. I really wish that they hooked me in the way that I think it could have if there was a little extra something, a little extra grit, but it just lacked that push. With such an “on the edge” style, combing garage punk and a DIY sound, I feel that when you’ve taken that leap to push the envelope it’s important to really push. Without it, it seems like a half assed attempt at taking risks that didn’t pan out. Most of the tracks ended up sounding the same to me. Ultimately, this was a good solid foundation but I longed for more. At the end of the day, I felt like there was only half of what could have been a whole. LD
Pianos Become The Teeth - Wait For Love Baltimore band Pianos Become The Teeth ‘Wait For Love’ has taken quite the creative turn, and all for the better. Diverting from their previous scream/posthardcore style, the entire album from start to finish is a different, deep, and emotional experience. Songs ‘Fake Lighting’ , ‘Charisma’ on the record have such a dynamic, magical presence, showing nods to their 2014 album ‘Keep You’. The continuity does wonders for this album and clearly shows the musical and technical genius of Chad McDonald and Micheal York. As opposed to the over confident nature of its predecessor, this album really lets you sit back to take a musical journey and appreciate it for all this record is. What really helps this new sound, is Durfey’s sense of lyricism within each and every track. Vocally, it is very subdued with an occasional dirty to clean vocal change here and there, but for the most part the vocal change suits each track lyrically and instrumentally. While a different sound than fans are used to, some may come to appreciate it as a twist of the old. Lyrically, it is a very raw and intense record while musically it is mild for people to really appreciate the technical lyric work being done here. The record shows that we ourselves are vulnerable to life itself. We fall sometimes, making it hard to find our way back in this journey we call life. However, love makes all the difference and helps us to continue to fight even when we are knocked down. Love and the emotions that derive from it is what make us feel complete. Since times have also changed for Durfey himself being a father now, the lyrics in this album really show the future roads of love, family, and adulthood.
PBTT also play with a lot of sounds instrumentally with ‘Forever Sound’ and ‘Dry Spells’ having a post rock instrumental ambiance while songs like ‘Bitter Red’ and ‘Bay Of Dreams’ are more post hardcore. With some of their favorite bands being within these music genres, it’s no wonder that some of these musical influences were found within some of the tracks blueprints. Instrumentally, the guitar is praiseworthy. Surprisingly, the drums have taken a clear backseat throughout the duration of this record where in its predecessors it was the fuel. Despite its relaxed presence, it works well. With a change like this, it’s important to first balance your old sound with your new path musically, and PBTT has done this rather well with this album. This album is very much like a musical onion, peel back the layers and you will see what it really reveals. ‘Wait For Love’ in particular is a very human driven album, showing that beneath the surface there is a story in each and every one of us and the emotions those stories evoke musically. It’s an album that strips away all of its bravado and instead focuses on raw emotional personal depth while celebrating life and all its twists and turns.
Hammerstroke - Satan's Claw This is the first time I've come across Hammerstroke so I wasn't too sure what to expect from these guys. Sub genres always annoy me because who really knows how they work but I'd class them as thrash for sure. That aside I must say that my first listen through was not only enjoyable but I found myself singing along to lyrics I had yet to learn and humming every guitar line I could find. Each song is really well thought out and the guys do a great job at using the fact they have more than one guitarist to their advantage. Layers upon layers of different leads, sounds and harmonies really give Hamerstroke a good depth. Just when you assume you have these guys figured out ‘Sweet Illusion’ gives you a small curveball by taking you back in time to the days of Black Sabbath and a very very Danzig approach to a track. Alas don’t let that fool you because as soon as you're back in the comfortable arms of thrash a cover of ‘Stayin' Alive’ just appears out of nowhere! I couldn’t help but laugh most of the way through. I'm not sure if this was done as a serious cover or in jest, either way I had a stupid grin on my face that’s for sure. The production of the album is actually quite outstanding and sounds really professional. My only criticism is that for me, personally at least, the vocals seem to be too in front of the rest of the mix (a small gripe and potentially just me being pedantic.) Overall I'd say the guys have done a fantastic job and it's an incredibly enjoyable album if you're a fan of that old school thrash sound! TR
Kalte Sonne - Ekumen This is my first ever review of a post-metal band that I've ever had to do. Now I'll be honest straight off the starting line, it took more than a good 3-4 listens to really truly "get" what these guys were going for but let me tell you, once you do you are shipped on a journey. The EP needs to be listened as a whole and there's no way that I could just pick out one track to play because you really do skip parts of what the EP gives you as a whole. You can really feel the passion and the sense of wonderment that these guys have put into this record as it really translates well back to the listener. They really take advantage of the different sounds they use and atmospheres they create. A great example of this is ‘Athse’. The song starts off with an almost victorious feel to it as if a great evil has been lifted, once you get to the middle of the track however that all changes. The vibe switches and the good times are replaced with a dark, heavy future. It really builds you up. Throughout the entire EP I was busy making my own story in my head and before you know it, it was over and the journey has ended.
The production isn't as professional as other bands but it doesn't take anything away from the music and is easily listenable and if anything it just adds another layer to the atmosphere. Overall ‘Ekumen’ is incredibly enjoyable and a great way to escape reality. Perfect for anybody that likes their metal filled with passion. TR
Casey - Where I Go When I Am Sleeping Casey's second album, ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’, breaks a lot of musical conventions. And it is all the more wonderful for doing so. Veering from slow, melancholic ambience one minute to visceral, crushing heaviness the next, there is something really special going on here. A lot of bands in recent years have tried to adopt the soft > heavy > soft > heavy approach, but few have pulled it off with such aplomb as Casey have on ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’. ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’ is very much a layered album. Covering a range of subject matter, with issues with both physical and mental health something of an overarching theme to the stories told by individual tracks, this is an album that listeners will notice new things about both musically and lyrically with each listen. It will require multiple listens to get the most out of it, but this would be time incredibly well spent. Highlights, and there are many, definitely include the opening pair of ‘Making Weight’ and ‘Wavering’, the former's drawn out, haunting tones providing a wonderful juxtaposition to the latters' tectonic assault on the senses. ‘Phosphenes’ (a reference to a particularly bad episode with anti-depressants) marries the two approaches wonderfully, with Tom Weavers harsh vocals complemented by some wonderful melodic work before returning to the softer approach later in the track. ‘Fluorescents’, an ode to a length stay in hospital, with its cry of "I'm so sick of feeling alone" is a track that may particularly resonate with many, while ‘Flowers By The Bed’ has an almost physical sad aura about it, but remains absolutely captivating. The second half of ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’ is no less full of quality, with none of the drop off that happens on the second half of so many albums past and present. The tone and atmosphere of ‘Morphine’ and ‘Bruise’ are almost reminiscent of one of the truly great post-metal bands, Red Sparowes, and one can only imagine these songs would be utterly encapsulating live. The vocal aggression on the album closer, the aptly titled ‘Wound’, feels almost cathartic. What is even more powerful is the spoken word part, which forms the second half of the song. To do it justice, it needs to be heard, so that is just one more excellent reason to go and listen to this album. ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’ is a fantastic, thought provoking album full of soul and emotion. Despite their relatively short time together so far, it could well be a career defining album for Casey, it is simply that good. JG
As Sirens Fall - Where Lost Things Go Admittedly, I was not a huge fan of this album in the beginning but the more I listened, I grew more and more fond of this release. Initially, I enjoyed the beginning tracks but I felt that it didn’t have a luster or shine that would push it from a good track to something I would want to add to my playlist to listen to more than once. ‘Lily’, the opening track, was a strong opener with a quick tempo and some screams to appeal to an audience that wants something a bit gruffer. For me however the chorus is what made the track strong, with a rhythmic and melodic swing to its haunting sound. I felt that the chorus and the verses didn’t quite mesh as well as they could have which is why this song was only good and not great for me. The shining parts of this release were ‘My Only Ghost’ and ‘She Runs With Wolves’ which were my two favourite songs because they brought back nostalgic pop punk memories and a sound that reflected a well thought out and put together piece for both tracks. Both were not amongst the slower side of tempo, however also rich in swelling riffs and vocals. I felt that both of these tracks were the strongest on the release, and although finishing out the release well and leaving the listener on a good note. LD
Dissonants - Vultures This EP really nailed my music taste, and I definitely will give this EP the ole’ “add to the playlist.” However, I only had one complaint. I found at times with the vocals that there was a hint of vibration in the voice, a slight twang that gave a very small vibrato which (for me) took away from the aural quality of the track. Ultimately, be it a small problem it did take away from the experience for me. Now for the fun part, complaining be damned. I love deep grooving riffs, and aggressive vocals and these are two things that you are guaranteed on this five track piece. ‘If It Takes Forever, I’ll Walk Forever’ took the end of the track list and also my favorite with a bold rolling intro, and a gruff vocal style established right at the very start. While I think that my complaints were a problem for me, they may not even be noticeable to some (maybe even many) ears. Certainly I don’t think it’s a big enough problem to knock the whole EP. I really enjoyed the EP overall! LD
Verity White - Breaking Out This album wasn’t quite my cup of tea. I came to appreciate the jazzy smooth and spicy vocals, but I wasn’t completely captured with the album. I like the risky intros that these guys took and some of the influences they drew with electronic music and pop elements, but ultimately I found that the tracks were a bit too far out of the range for me. For those who enjoy a distinct indie-rock vibe, this definitely would be more up your alley but I found that I couldn’t quite dig it. No fault to the artists though, they did a great job of blending different influences and an impressive vocal range into their own unique sound. I just personally didn’t find the album something that I could get into. LD
Waterweed - Brightest The opener of this album, ‘Red Eyes’ was immediately a home run for me, and the rest of the album followed suit. ‘Red Eyes’ summed up the whole vibe of the album extremely well and immediately charms the listener with their catchy hook and full, swelling riffs. This album is a great listen from our friends in Waterweed hailing from Japan. The entire album in full was rich and wholesome. Normally I find that with an album at twelve tracks long, it can be easy to get lost in the fuzz and redundancy works against you. Here, there was an excellent variety and diversity within the tracks that led to easy transitions between songs but also distinguishability.
I found that these guys seemed to combine some harder sounds into a pop punk tune which settled into them extremely well, and suited the entire release. Well done boys. LD
Silence Equals Death - End Times 'End Times' is a showcase of classic, full force hardcore with a sprinkling of melodic overtones for good mix. Pact full of massive riffs and great anthem like verses it really ticks most of the boxes. For myself hardcore can feel a bit stale if it's a constant riff-fest and the melodic side that SED bring across really breaks up the brutality making the heavy even more heavy. You definitely get your standard hardcore beat downs like you would with any hardcore band but why fix something that’s not broken? I have one gripe really and that’s the vocals, for me personally, they are hard to get into and quite difficult to understand but then that may just be me. The track of the album for me would be ‘Life Hurts More’. This track really showcases what SED can do when they give themselves a bigger time frame to work with. There’s more layers and emotion in this track in comparison to the rest of the album and I've always felt that emotion is important for a hardcore band. Not to mention the cheeky cover at the end of the track, I won't ruin it for anyone. Mix wise it's a pretty solid and there isn't anything that jumps out to me that sounds particularly bad or under produced so props to the engineer for that! Overall I must say that SED is a breath of fresh air to the hardcore community. The addition of more melody makes ‘End Times’ stand out from other hardcore bands . I'd happily recommend it! TR
Twitching Tongues - Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred Crashing out of the L.A hardcore scene, Twitching Tongues have made their way through line up changes which could have crippled the band to find a stable line up that continues to up the ante from album to album and this fourth full release. With ‘AWOL (State of the Union)’ they have a powerful opener which grabs the balls straight away and keeps a tight hold through ‘Harakiri’. These two pack a massive punch, they pull it back a little with the soft sounds of ‘Kill For You’. There is a very cool dynamic on this one, while the guitar is plucked and quiet the bass is still rumbling in the background and when the big guitars hit it brings some big moments. The clean vocals could easily have been sacrificed in these sections but by keeping them, they add a nice element of doing what you would expect. Now, I love the intro to ‘T.F.R’, the talking radio element made me think back to White Zombie and how they brought those pieces in and the couple of bars of the Funeral March was just really cool! The song takes on a bit more of the hardcore element of the band then previous songs and it is fast and furious. This would be a hard album to classify, not that I’m a big fan of labelling every style but there is metal, hardcore and with ‘Forgive and Remember’ a hefty slice of doom thrown in, the slow trudge of the beat, the booming bass and the wailing guitar melodies behind the vocals, this band have many influences they can call upon. In some cases, it might sound like a band not sure of what it wants to do, with Twitching Tongues though, it all flows and sounds cohesive as an album. The varying styles make it one that keeps me interested in what they’ll do next. Best of all the songs are very good, they know what they are and dare I say, there is a hint of prog about this album. They are true to their roots, ‘The Sound of Pain’ is testament to this and with the doomy echos of ‘Defection (Union of the State)’ still ringing out at the end, Twitching Tongues have an album that can only enhance and rise their profile. Richly deserved it will be too. AN
Tom Waits - Closing Time 45 years on from the release of ‘Closing Time’, the world is a very different place. Socially, musically, politically, just about every way you can think of. Tom Waits is also very different, his music cannot be defined by one album, perhaps more by eras as the ‘Asylum’ album years are almost unrecognisable to those in the antiyears. ‘Closing Time’ is the starting point however and with his ‘Asylum’ albums being re-mastered by Waits himself and Kathleen Brennan and repressed comes a chance to go back over this masterpiece of an album. It is an album that opens a path to the story telling songs which are in abundance today by various bands and with varying degrees of success. The songs could be a soundtrack to those of a certain generation, of uncertain times, youthful exuberance, smoky bars and down to the primal urge to speak to a woman in a bar. The songs, mostly piano led, are far more stripped back compared to what he would do in later years as his need to experiment would create far more lavish and progressive songs, the production is thread bare which just adds to the charm and emotion of the record. With ‘Ol’55’ you have a marker for how an opener should grab you and exhilarate a listener, it is easy to see why The Eagles latched onto the song and have it become a big hit for them. There would be plenty more who would find success in the future with Waits’s songs with rock royalty such as Rod Stewart and Bruce Springsteen to name a few.
“Those were days of roses, poetry and prose” is just one of the stand out lines from the haunting ‘Martha’, a song which oozes emotion, I’m sure there won’t be many of us who won’t have someone from the past they’d love to reconnect with. This is before Facebook and the likes of course, songs like this couldn’t be written today and the world suffers for it. There is raw passion behind these songs, they are of a different time, times that are long gone and will never be seen again, at least not in the same way. This is an album of its time, but the subject matter is still as relevant today. There aren’t many better story tellers down the years, even at this early stage he manages to make you lose yourself in the songs and be trapped by the melodies and stories he is telling. There is an art to that and in the years to come the stories would become grander more in depth and at times intense but here there is a certain innocence. The mind of Tom Waits is a deep labyrinth of twisting turns, ideas, and stories, able to make you smile, laugh, cry and a dozen other emotions. There aren’t many writers who can do that, ‘Closing Time’ was just the start and what a start it was. As essential now as it ever was, perhaps even more so. AN
We Were Sharks - Lost Touch Canadian pop punk outfit We Were Sharks are releasing their latest album ‘Lost Touch’. After having left their old label to sign to Victory records in late 2017, this is the long awaited follow-up to the 2015 release ‘Not A Chance’. I went into this album with more than a little apprehension. These days it often seems that if you’ve heard one pop punk band, you’ve heard them all, especially with a lot of the more well-known acts either winding down their careers or having recently retired. It had left me wondering where the next big pop punk band was going to come from. Well, this album answered that question. This is definitely not just another generic pop punk album. No, this album has some real bite. First off, the unusual six-piece band has 3 guitarists in Colin Jaques, Jason Mooney and Josh King, which is not the norm for this genre of music. There is also the way the album packs 10 songs into less than 30 minutes, and yet for my money is one of the most impressive albums of the year so far and easily worth the cost. These guys aren’t really doing anything new at all, but as a group the band is able to do all the core basics of musicianship better than most of the bands on the scene at the moment. Their biggest strength however is their songwriting, they are fairly basic in structure but they evoke the usual lyrical topics of pop punk outfits so well that they stand out despite being so similar on a superficial level to the mediocre bands around them. Randy Frobel gives a powerful, angry performance behind the mic, and it gels fantastically with the triple guitars, giving the whole thing a powerful bite. The band also knows how to use the hook very well; it shows through especially well in ‘Beyond Repair’, ‘Drop the Act’ and ‘Stay’. The track ‘Late Bloomer’ features guest vocals from Broadside’s Ollie Baxxter, and has a very nostalgic feel to it, the song will have you reminiscing of your youth and long summer days spent with friends. Baxxter’s vocal contribution meshes very well with lead singer Randy Frobel. The shortest track on the album, ‘Ashley’, clocks in at just 1 minute 22 seconds, and yet the band had the daring - some might say audacity - to release it as a single. That’s not a risk you’d see a lot of bands willing to take. We Were Sharks have definitely improved an awful lot since their last album, especially on the lyrical side of things. Although their sound doesn’t stand out from the crowd compared to bands like Four Years Strong and New Found Glory, this is still by far the best pop punk album I’ve come across in 2018. If they are able to improve as much for their next album as they did for this one, then we should expect great things from We Were Sharks. LS
7 Days In Alaska – Dancing With Ghosts Formed in 2014, Norwegian pop rock band 7 Days In Alaska are ready to share their debut album ‘Dancing With Ghosts’ with the world. Based in Skien in Norway the trio is made up of lead vocalist Martin Bjerke, Guitarist Chris Gundersen and Simen Sandnes on drums. ‘Dancing With Ghosts’ is an album bursting with catchy snyth melodies that contrast successfully with the appealing pop choruses but, these tones can often dominate the tracks towards the end, drowning out the climatic drums. The track ‘Lost At Sea’ has enticing ambient tones combined with atmospheric vocals but it is all suddenly lost when sythns kick in - leaving the song feeling anti-climactic. Innovative sounds with potential are present throughout the album, if they dial back the upbeat sythns and follow a slightly heavier direction focusing on the drums and guitars as well just like their inspirations PVRIS and 30 Seconds to Mars, then they could be on to something here! With the growing success of bands like Swedish rock band Normandie, it seems there is a place in the market for rock bands with a synth-pop twist.
Good Tiger - We Will All Be Gone Supergroups seem to have become more of a common thing in recent times, and as when that has happened before the question has to be asked - are they actually any good? Supergroup Good Tiger have returned to the scene with their new album ‘We Will All Be Gone’ and I’ve been listening to it to try to answer that question. I’ve not come across the band before, but since their debut album ‘A Head Full Of Moonlight’ launched in 2015 I’ve heard a lot of positive things about what they were doing, and then, when I was researching the band before listening to their new album I found they had been signed to Metal Blade Records. Knowing how good that label’s roster is, I figured that Good Tiger must be worth a listen. Their skill is clear from the start with ‘The Devil Thinks I’m Sinking’, the song’s opening makes you think the track will be a nice relaxed listen but suddenly the whole band comes in full force with some heavy riffs and some impressive vocal work from Elliot Coleman the song is full on in your face aggression, a really superb opening track. ‘Float On’ keeps that hard rock vibe going, the track featuring very impressive riffs from Derya ‘Dez’ Nagle and Joaquin Ardiles, with another strong vocal performance from Coleman and a very catchy chorus. Honestly, I’m surprised they chose not to release this song as a single, I think it would have worked really well and got the new album even more attention. Things tick along nicely as the hard rock sound continues with ‘Such a Kind Stranger’, it’s not until ‘Blueshift’ that we get a change in style as the album moves from rock to a more electric sound. It maintains Good Tiger’s sound while changing things up enough to keep the audience interested.
‘Salt of the Earth’ brings back the rock sound nicely, again this is another one where I’m surprised they didn’t use it as a single, it’s got a nice catchy hook to it in “I’ve never been a religious man” that will get stuck in your head long after the album is over, and this is a song I can see being used in a live set and going down particularly well with audiences. Elliot Coleman was on outstanding form during these recording sessions, I’d like to see how he performs the song live. Moving onto the second half of the album, it does have a few standout moments in it, the track ‘Nineteen Grams’ being the best one. This is where drummer Alex Rudinger shows his best work on the entire album, really making the drum sound a force to be reckoned with, and it’s backed up very nicely with both guitars. There is also a very short instrumental track ‘Cherry Lemon’, it might seem a little out of place being more towards the end of the album but it does help to break things up before the band head into the last track ‘I’ll Finish This book Later’. I must admit, I had been wrong in dismissing Good Tiger just because they were a supergroup; they are an amazing band with clear chemistry between all its members, a strong sound, and a lot of different ideas and styles on display. The album comes in at 36 minutes, with 9 full tracks and one instrumental composition, it’s a real rollercoaster ride this album. It makes a strong statement that Good Tiger are more than the usual supergroup destined to have their 15 minutes of fame then disappear. ‘We Will All Be Gone’ proves that Good Tiger are going to be around for a long time to come - and I for one am very glad about that. As good as this album is, I don’t think they’ve even come close to hitting their peak yet. LS
The Temperance Movement - A Deeper Cut When The Temperance Movement started out they announced that their goal was to be the new Black Crows, and they have stuck to that goal, finding early success with their album ‘White Bear’ in 2016, and since then have racked up a number of tours, with each one growing in crowd size. They even opened for one of the biggest and best (and perhaps the most famous) bands in the history of music, The Rolling Stones. Even though two of the founding members of the band, Luke Potashnick (guitar) who was a major driving force behind the band, and Damon Wilson (drums) left, it hasn’t stopped them moving forwards. Their new album ‘A Deeper Cut’ marks the beginning of a new chapter of their history, and puts out a statement of intent for what they intend to accomplish in this new era. Despite the changes, the band have kept their core sound, and it seems like the remaining members have only grown into their style even more. Vocalist Phil Campbell has never sounded better; his deep, blues sounding tenor and the emotion he pours into his lyrics are truly something to just enjoy. Right from the opening track ‘Caught In The Middle’ the new members, drummer Simon Lea and guitarist Matt White slot into place seamlessly. Neither miss a step, and White especially seems to fit in as he’d always been part of the group. It’s an upbeat number that will have you nodding along in next to no time. The band set the bar early and they set it high, but they promptly vault over it with ‘Built-In Forgetter’. In this track, Phil gives another mesmerising performance behind the mic, his blues sound complimenting the band’s sound amazingly. ‘Love and Devotion’ is in my opinion where the group really get into their groove though. Everything blends together perfectly, when this is played on stage it is going to be a real crowd pleaser, I doubt there will be a single person capable of standing who isn’t on moving when this one is performed live. The title track ‘A Deeper Cut’ slows things down and gets much more emotional, it’s almost hauntingly beautiful, the pacing is perfect, and again Phil is on top form. This is the kind of song that really makes you take a step back and think about things for a second. This could easily have been the lead single from this album, there’s just so much pure emotion in this song, and it’s a beauty to hear. Another emotional song is ‘Another Spiral’, a very mellow blues type song where you can feel the emotion pouring out of Phil the whole time, the feelings of loss and pain are on full display for all to hear and they are conveyed with such meaning you will be fighting back the tears. Yet more meaningful tracks come with ‘Higher Than The Sun’, which has a clear message of the battle against drug addiction, with the chorus line “I’m dancing in the middle, higher than the Sun”; and with ‘The Way It Was and the Way It Is Now’, both songs have a sound that is very catchy, and definitely are the types of songs that will be stuck in your head for days on end. They carry a clear message about looking to the future rather than focusing on a troubled past. These two tracks stand out for me as the high points of the album. The album begins to wind itself down with another emotional two tracks in ‘Children’ and ‘There’s Still Time’. As with the other emotive tracks, Phil wears his heart on his sleeve, the power and emotion of Phil’s voice is again masterfully wielded and the band who’s backing vocals on ‘There’s Still Time’ are very effective in adding even more emotion to the song. Even at this late point in the album they are still keeping to a quite incredible standard. The aptly named final track, ‘The Wonders We’ve Seen’ is one final masterpiece revolving around Phil’s amazing vocals that do their utmost to wring every last emotion out of you. This album shows that even with the changes to the band The Temperance Movement have managed to remain consistent while at the same time reshaping their sound and evoking every emotion possible and doing it so skilfully. This is a raw, powerful and truthful album. It’s a masterpiece and I can’t wait to hear what these guys will do next. LS
Elessar - Is This All We Are It’s always good to see more British bands attempting to take the mantle and bring rock back to our fair land, too many good names have been lost over the past few years and perhaps some young blood is called for. Well we’re in luck because Elessar are the blood we need. ‘Is This All We Are’ is the second EP released by the South West emo alt rockers and this definitely is a path to them becoming more noticed around the country and beyond. The path itself is lined with “Love and loss, anxiety and issues that people face everyday” according to lead singer Ricky Powell. This is reflected well within the emotionally charged lyrics scattered throughout the outrageously short EP. Though it is short each song has its own personality. ‘In All Honesty’ is probably a bit more upbeat compared to the other tracks with an almost playful riff interrupting in the middle to add a bit of light heartedness into the proceedings. Then you’ve got the EP opener ‘Half Love’ which is a ballsy rock ballad that kicks off proceedings beautifully. Though ‘Careless’ doesn’t sound as heavy as the other tracks on the album the undertone of repeating drums and a dooming baseline definitely makes this a stand out anthem. The best thing about this track is that it gets to showcase the talents of drummer Dannal James who absolutely kills it all the way through. Considering Elessar have only been going from 2016 they have done a hell of a lot in the two years since their formation. Their chemistry in sound is amazing to see and it’s clear they play well off each other. With a loyal following all over the UK then I’m sure this EP will propell them to the highest heights. RO
Greybeards - For The Wilder Minds When I think of Swedish rock the first band that come to my mind are The Hives, their energy is unparalleled and their songs are first class. However after hearing the new album from rockers Greybeards that’s probably soon likely to change. For a band that share a name with wise old men from a video game franchise (Skyrim took over all of our lives don’t judge me) I half expected this album to be nothing but chants and incantations. It was something so much better. What’s really great about these guys is that when I’m listening to the album in full each and every song is different and unique. However there’s something else, they don’t sound like anyone else within music at the moment. They’ve created some sort of Biffy Clyro/Foo Fighters/Billy Talent hybrid and the ending result is a hard rock band with hooky riffs and thought provoking lyrics. Each song is set out with its own agenda and none really are comparable to the other. The hard hitting Insane touches on the issues of political actions and how we as a planet need to be kinder to each other which also bleeds happily into ‘One In A Billion’ proving to ourselves that it doesn’t matter if we’re rich and famous we are who we are and there’s no one else like us. ‘Beautiful Things’ mellows down the album slightly, the vocal techniques from the lead singer of this very talented group really resonate and shine on this track, the tempo can change from a scream to an almost melodic Interpol tone. It’s done very well. I’m always impressed when bands discuss the likes of depression in their songs, most people will hide it well and refuse to talk about it and let it slowly destroy them. Then there are others who will wear it proudly on their shoulder, ‘Cold December’ is a prime example of this. “I’m lost forever, searching in my head” is such a wonderful euphemism for how everyone can feel sometimes. The tone behind it turns this into a solid rock anthem and the guitar solo at the end just cements this. Greybeards have worked hard to not really stick to any one genre and though they have plenty of influences they've created something totally different. ‘For The Wilder Minds’ is a work of imagination, determination and life. It is a look into yourself and everyone around you and is a true window on the world. RO
Listener - Being Empty : Being Filled I’d never before seen the words “spoken word rock band” to describe an artist before, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Listener are the product of a hip hop project set up by lead singer Dan Smith, their fusion of spoken word poetry and hard rock music has been their backbone since their conception back in 2002 and they’re still going. Although the instrument work is amazing and compliment each other extremely well the main act of this three piece has to be Dan, the spoken word genius. He has a way of blending words together and making them sound more prominent and pertinent than they actually are. He’s a lyrical genius as well as a wonderful wordsmith. Clearly he’s spent years honing this talent and it shows Though Smith’s talent to twist words to his own will is well and truly brilliant and I would never challenge or take it away from him I almost feel as if all the songs sound the same. They seem to fall into one another with ease and I’m yet to be wowed by an actual song rather than the lead’s singing/rapping/speaking. Listener are a unique act and they’ve certainly worked hard to get to where they are, the only issue I have is that when your main selling point is speaking with rock music there’s not many places you can shift too afterwards. This album is very impressive but most of the songs sound the same. From the beginning of ‘Pent Up Genes’ all the way through to ‘Plague Doctor’ it’s just going through the motions. RO
Milestones - Red Lights It’s clear to see why Manchester’s Milestones are growing in popularity. They’ve been touring for the past few years since their conception in 2014 and have shared the stage with some heavy hitters such as Taking Back Sunday and Four Year Strong, the question is can their debut album live up to the hype. Yes. Yes it can. What this British born band manage to do is bring the pop rock elements from the likes of Mayday Parade to this side of the shores. The harmonies from lead singer Matt Clarke resonate beautifully and make them so much more than just another boring pop punk band attempting to be the next Blink-182. There is a certain level of depth to second track ‘Once Upon a Time’ and the chorus of “woah-oh” is always a good hook for any up and coming band to get noticed. This band seem to be full of catchy hooks and infectious lyrics, lead single ‘Paranoid’ carries on the tradition that the first few songs have paved before it. The riffs are amazing and the drums to accompany leave you toe tapping long after the song has finished. It’s good to see that this band aren’t a total one trick pony though, this much is realised by ‘Against The World’. The soft tempo is designed for a crowd to throw their lighters in the air, although as we’re now in 2018 I guess it’ll be phone lights and vape sticks. The slow build of “na na na” in the background carries on rising until the finale of this track and though it’s not a huge pay off it adds a beautiful ballad-esque style to it. Although the band are known as being pop rock even they would have to admit that their track ‘Eighteen’ is a lot closer to pop punk than pop rock. Even the vocals seem to be a little more high pitched compared to the rest of the album. Milestones have that amazing formula to create anthem after anthem on one album. Even the slower track ‘This Is My Life’ is an absolutely brilliant track and will be loved by a LOT of people. This is music designed for the kids who are hating life at the moment, who have loved and lost and just need someone to say “I feel the same way.” It’s ironic that this album is called ‘Red Lights’ because from this moment on it will be all go for this little Manc band! RO
Press To Meco - Here's To The Fatigue Alternative UK rock trio release their anticipated sophomore album through recently signed Marshall Records. The appropriately titled ‘Intro’ opens the album and as it suggests it is just to set the scene and it does so in a great fashion with fuzzy loud noises preparing us for the next ten tracks to follow. The first proper song and single ‘Familiar Ground’ is upbeat, fun and super catchy. It is a great fast one to open with and leaves you eager to hear more. ‘Here’s To The Fatigue’ is certainly a leading song with its feel-good vibes which are melodic and dynamic, this is a must hear. The unusual but compelling ‘If All Your Parts Don’t Make A Whole’ is one of the most varied and stands out with its high-pitched and harmonic vocals. ‘A Place In It All’ is a more stripped back chilled number but it is still highly impactful and picks up to have some big group chants.
The last song and longest offering ‘White Knuckling’ features the characteristic and nearly hypnotic high pitched vocals. It is a changeable track which in parts is tense and progressive with some heavier vibes, with its mix of sounds and transitions this is a brilliant way to end as it summarises the band’s sound wonderfully and shows they have lots to offer. This album is dynamic, fun and seriously catchy. It is also very wellrounded and unforgettable, especially with its effective vocal harmonies which makes them standout, along with the diverse and changeable instrumentation. There is something for everyone here and it is a highly enjoyable listen which will keep you going back for more. CL
Bloodline - Darkness In The Fallen World Hailing from South-Bavaria, Bloodline performs their take on classic, thrash metal riffs on their new EP, ‘Darkness In The Fallen World.’ Tracks like ‘Universe In Torment’ employ dynamic dueling, but complimentary guitars. Vocally there’s a balance between clean and harsh vocals that are used when necessary. This band is very much sticking to their roots and the classics of their genre and absolutely doing them justice. The four-piece employs riffs that take notes from all the greats of thrash metal, from Pantera, Megadeth, and the like. The midtempo guitar and bass work guides the listener through their desolate and apocalyptic lyrics. MC
Just Like Honey - Dreamland Like spring oozing into summer, Just Like Honey’s new LP, ‘Dreamland’ is warm, bright, and sparkling. With an ever appropriate title, the delicate vocals weave in and out of shimmery guitar riffs with drum beats that take you along for the ride. Not all is a fantasy, though, while some tracks put the listener in a haze, other tracks bring you on a nostalgia trip for the 90s- adolescent heartbreak and all. The record all in all, really solidifies this bands sound. At 12 tracks long, it’s an ambitious first full length record that maintains a sweet dreams kind of vision without being repetitive. There’s a very distinct sound that pulls from old and new indie pop as well as dream pop and shoegaze, but the vocals are what set this music aside from the typical indie/dream pop act. Reminiscent of The Cranberries and Alanis Morisette, Just Like Honey’s vocalist croons over reverb drenched guitar riffs. MC
The band RUYNOR was officially founded in January 2013 by Twisted-Felix Ruyn and his best mate Dome Ruyn. While it was difficult to find a drummer at the beginning, the two spent a lot of time on writing songs, and at the fall of 2014 they went to the studio to record their first album (although without a drummer and without having played live before). In summer of 2015, Sammy Ruyn joined and completed the band. With him, the 'Ruyns' found a gifted, powervant drummer - their own Mikkey Dee, if you like ...The music of RUYNOR is a primitive mixture of punk, metal and rock'n'roll without any big frills : attacking drum beats, accompanied by driving punk guitars, led by aggressive, provocative vocals. Brand: 'from the f*kkin' street' ! The main influences are bands like the Ramones, Motรถrhead, Rose Tattoo, and the Sex Pistols. The contents of the RUYNOR-Songs are different, but they all relate to the real life, while some of the songs speak of cohesion and loyalty, other song lyrics represent an undisguised attack on politics, high society, or fascism.
Often to hear or to read is also this 'Trigga Trigga Peng!', which is considered as a battle cry of the band. Since their live debut on April 23, 2016, the 'Ruyns' can look back on some highly-explosive live concerts, on which they have already performed with bands like Psychopunch, Nitrogods, Traitor, Blood God, Burning Lady, Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space, The Ramonas, and on the end of the last song, full of anger and euphoria, more guitars have already been slayed! Well, the name RUYNOR stands for the art of punk! the riffing and a power-loaded live show, in which there is a lot of action on stage ... So long...TRIGGA TRIGGA PENG !!!
Snaps By Charlotte
Camp Cope – How to Socialise & Make Friends Australian indie rockers Camp Cope return with their sophomore album ‘How to Socialise and Make Friends’ . ‘The Opener’ tells the story of a difficult relationship experience, and the lyrics are performed extremely well by vocalist Georgia McDonald, whose emotional vocals are incredibly unique, the track deals with a number of personal issues including the bands battle for others believing in their career “It's another man telling us we can't fill up the room, it's another man telling us to book a smaller venue” it’s a fascinating insight into what goes on behind the scenes and it’s the perfect song to set the theme for the album. The title track is much more melodic and less aggressive, but again makes reference to a seemingly complicated relationship from the past, and a story betrayal, much like the previous track this song ends with a message of power and moving on with the past “I can see myself living without you and being fine, for the rest of my life, it’s just me on that bike, yeah and I’ll wave to you as I ride by.” ‘The Face of God’ is one of the best songs on the record, again another personal number reflecting on the decisions they’ve made and a confrontation with the face of God, the vocals are once again sublime and really deliver a powerful tone. ‘Anna’ feels slightly lethargic at times, reflecting the desperate theme of the track with a clear message to Anna, to put all issues into a song, the chorus is delivered incredibly as the song draws to a close. ‘Sagan-Indiana’ feels like a four-minute rant with a particularly angry vocal pitch, it emphasises the importance of the strength of friendship between woman. ‘The Omen’ tells an intriguing story of forgiveness. “Now I love you like you never hurt me” where the person affected tells her story of wanting to move on but there are still wounds that need to heal, I believe the track is trying to convey that you should not be afraid to hide your feelings. ‘Animal & Real’ feels more upbeat in tempo as Georgia reflects on a relationship that brought out the animal in her, as the track closes you can almost feel the tears rolling down McDonald’s face with her incredibly emotional vocal performance. ‘UFO Lighter’ is a track that deals with Georgia’s relationships with her family and friends, but it fails to hit home with the same emotion as previous tracks. In contrast Georgia’s tribute to her late father on the final track ‘I’ve Got You’ where Georgia reflects on moments she would have liked her father to forget – before a final tribute to him where she says how proud she was of him, it’s a very emotional poignant last few minutes, and can almost be remembered as tribute to the album as a listener. The closing line of “Alright, I’m done” is another moment the listener can connect with, as the album ties you in emotionally and focuses your mind on listening to the story, some people may find it too personal but you cannot help but be intrigued by what is a very powerful and important record, especially for female bands in the alternative music scene. JP
SEASONS - Chapters The thing that I really loved about this EP was that each track made me think, “This could be awesome live.” In my opinion, successful music makes you feel tantalized and exhilarated. If it doesn’t make you feel things in the back of your head and over every square inch of your body then it might not be acting on its full capability. While these tracks didn’t give me that “all over”’ feeling, they were definitely on the way since I was curious to know what SEASONS would be like live, and felt a need to get up and move. They open up strong with ‘Getaway’ as one of the bangers on this EP, and slowly dwindle down to the last track, ‘Consequences’. I felt like as the EP closed out, even though it wasn’t as up front rowdy, the tension definitely built up more which did well to leave the listener whole instead of wanting more. Overall, it did end up reminding me of a lighter version of Seasons After (band name coincidence not intended). There's something to be said for bands that are both on the heavier side yet containing those pop elements that get stuck in your head, which are accessible to a huge audience and digestible for most. However, they are easy to be bored by since they can be done well or done “meh”, but I definitely think these guys did a great job and are onto something here. LD
Moose Blood - I Don’t Think I Can Do This Anymore Moose Blood have had a steep rise as a band since their full length was released in 2014. The UK outfit are back with their new album ‘I Don’t Think I Can Do This Anymore’ - the album kicks off with the anthemic ‘Have I Told You Enough’ it’s a fairly simple track lyrically and a steady introduction to the album. ‘Talk in Your Sleep’ reminds me a lot of Taking Back Sunday, this song deals with missing a girl and dealing with the emotions from that situation, despite a theme of heartbreak the summery guitars in the chorus make it quite an enjoyable number. ‘Just Outside’ is another track relating to personal struggles, it’s short and punchy and the shouted background vocals reminds me of Brand New. ‘You Left in The Worst Way’ falls short and doesn’t bring a lot to the record. ‘All The Time’ sees the band get more experimentative instrumentally and is a much stronger anthem, the echoed guitar is similar to Title Fight, the emotive vocals make this track pretty enjoyable and effective. ‘Can We Stay Like This’ has a strong ‘Best of Me’ (The Starting Line) vibe to it, it reflects frontman Eddy Brewerton’s appreciation for the relationship with his wife, a contrast to the heartbreak theme of the first half of the record. ‘Pull Me From The Floor’ is a much louder track instrumentally reflecting the difficulties of moving on from a previous relationship, it’s refreshing to hear more aggression in what thus far has been a conservative effort. ‘Walk All Day With You’ is stripped back and adds some variety. ‘Such a Shame’ raises the tempo and features probably the best chorus on the album, and this is probably the strongest number on the entire record. The penultimate track ‘Promise Me’ reminds me so much of the emo genre in the early 00s, the uplifting chorus and punchy riffs are followed at the end by a superb solo. The album interestingly ends on a sad note, with ‘It’s Too Much’ which reflects themes of desperation that have featured throughout the album, and ultimately it’s resulted in it being ‘Too Much’ It’s a nice effort from Moose Blood, but unlike other famous albums in the emo genre, it fails to inspire or really ignite the listeners thoughts. The album I’m sure will be relatable for those dealing with difficult relationships and moving on. This album will be one that fans enjoy, and they will continue to grow. JP
VNDTA - Pale Glow “All female fronted bands sound like Paramore” I imagine if VNDTA were to ever hear this old chestnut their response would be “Hold my beer” as they pretty much destroy everything in their path. While the screaming vocals are absolutely in-sane though this whole album when it comes to clean vocals something falls short. This is evident after the first song ‘Pale Glow’, it’s a full on rollercoaster of metal! The drums accompany the riffs beautifully and the screaming is on point, but the clean vocals almost sound like they’re pitched incorrectly, there’s dropping notes and it’s clear that the lead singer is struggling to hold them. As the album carries on the vocals improve, ‘Excuses’ one of the singles from the album begins with some beautiful singing from lead Megan and even when the harsher vocals kick in it’s not being taken away it’s adding depth and layers. This is definitely a track to get them noticed by people, with the chorus of “Excuses’, excuses I’ve heard them all” it sticks with you like the floaters in your eye, you’ll be singing it for days to come, guaranteed. Though all tracks are certainly hardcore and metal there’s something darker and broodier about ‘Swine’, from the initial beat of the drum it seems to take on a personality of itself almost separate to the rest of the album. Then it switches and it’s like listening to a completely different song, almost something reminiscent of System of a Down, that kind of fist clenhed, operatic, hectic insanity driven hate. It’s an incredible track. The best track on the album in my personal opinion comes from ‘Rare Breed’, the breakdown is insane and the electric guitar work during the middle is beautifully intricate and well thought out. Even the vocals are probably the best they can be on this particular track. The raucous growls from Megan are other worldly and cement this song as a full on metal banger. This awesome EP ends on the downright dirty ‘Virus’. From the very beginning of the roared “I AM A VIRUS” this song keeps building and improving until it hits all the right buttons. Even throwing in a blergh for good metal measure this song is definitely one of the heaviest and the best to end on. VNDTA are here to mess things up and when this EP drops I can imagine a lot of doors will be opened for them, whether they’ll go through them or destroy them is another thing entirely! RO
Andrew W.K. - You're Not Alone Hard party rocker Andrew W.K. returns after a nine-year gap with his new fifth album ‘You’re Not Alone’ released through Sony Music. The scene setting and impactful opener ‘The Power of Partying’ has a very dramatic and epic feel, making for a great way to kick things off… First single ‘Music Is Worth Living For’ is high energy, ambient, with memorable vocals, especially in the high-pitched chorus and catchy instruments. This again like the opening has a massive sound, and is certainly a perfect uplifting party anthem that most can relate to and may just be his best song to date. The second single ‘Ever Again’ carries on the party and the larger than life sounds, whilst ‘The Party Never Dies’ gallops along and is bigger than ever and gets its message across well… ‘Keep On Going’ is a piano-driven number and boasts a strong message of strength and endurance. This album has a lot of depth and meaning rather than just partying for the sake of it like on his debut. The title track and closer ‘You’re Not Alone’ has some of most impressive vocals yet and is all-consuming in the greatest sense. The nine-year absence was definitely worth the wait for this unexpected positive self-help musical album with its inspirational spoken sections throughout to break up the album and offer more motivation. There is a great 80s rock ambience shining through and it offers fast fun anthems and meaningful slower numbers, this is a brilliant and different album which everyone should give a go for your sanity and for your eardrums. CL
Myles Kennedy - Year Of The Tiger Myles Kennedy is best known for being the lead singer of hard rock band Alter Bridge but now he is taking a departure from the heavier side of the genre with his first solo album which delves into a more stripped back blues rock sound. The title track opens the album which was a wise choice as it is strong, very melodic and features brilliant rich vocals which you would expect. It immediately asserts and grips you with his stripped back acoustic style, it also has a tense atmosphere making this the perfect start but also the best representation of the album. ‘The Great Beyond’ is a must hear and has a different feel to it with an exotic vibe and Myles let’s his full vocal capacity loose which is always a pleasure to hear. One of the most vulnerable and beautiful songs is ‘Haunted by Design’ which highlights that Myles having his own solo album is definitely something that we all needed as well as him for that matter, as the album has a very cathartic feel. ‘Mother’ is layered with tuneful instruments which has a hopeful and heart-warming affect whilst ‘Songbird’ is very melodic and pleasant to listen to fittingly. The final song ‘One Fine Day’ ends things on a nice and positive note, coming full circle in emotions. This is a finely crafted and satisfying album which is brimming with honesty and passion making for a rich and deep listening experience, especially with the range of tones and moods explored. Something which is always present is the soul and power behind each track making for a superb release. Myles had his work cut out coming from a massive rock band so expectations were high but luckily he manages to live up to this and even exceed it. CL
Crowned Kings - Sea of Misery Hardcore Australian act Crowned Kings unleashed their impressive debut ‘Forked Road’ in 2015 and now they are back to wreak more havoc with the follow up ‘Sea Of Misery’. To open we have the title track which is dark and menacing with vicious vocals, which is a great stomping hard number to kick off. The following track ‘Cold You Like’ keeps things exciting with many tempo changes and rampages on while hard melodic ‘Winters War’ is a short and sharp attack which is worth a listen and the proceeding ‘Crowned King’ is a crushing and solid offering. The final blow ‘The Suffering’ opens on a calm intro which spawns anticipation and then it goes on to be different before it charges on to the usual pummelling sounds. This is a great one to end on especially as it’s the most dynamic. This is a brutal and solid sophomore which hardcore fans will devour and further secures their name in the scene. CL
Black Stone Cherry - Family Tree American hard rockers Black Stone Cherry are back with album number six and sticking to their signature thirteen song offering which like past releases features songwriting from all members helping to give it more flavour. Opener ‘Bad Habit’ immediately gets the fun blues rock vibes going and quickly asserts their irresistible signature swaggering style while the first single ‘Burnin’’ has a harder edge and stand out slick guitars. ‘New Kinda Feelin’’ fittingly has a different feel to the previous tracks but as always remains infectiously upbeat and catchy and ‘Carry Me On Down The Road’ keeps the varied and feel-good sounds going. Changing the pace more so is the bluesy stripped back ‘My Last Breath’ which shows off frontman Chris Robertson’s brilliant vocals which suit this genre perfectly.
‘Southern Fried Friday Night’ is on the harder rock spectrum and is a perfect weekend anthem. A stand out moment comes from ‘Dancin’ In The Rain’ featuring Warren Haynes who helps add another dynamic and texture with his guitar cameo, delivering another top-notch track dripping with style. ‘You Got The Blues’ opens in an unusual way before swinging into full-blown hard southern rock. It also features lead singer Chris’ son who contributed to the backing vocals and helps add to the theme of the album around family which is a nice touch. Closing and title track ‘Family Tree’ is passionate, deep and fulfilling, it marks the perfect end to the album. Black Stone Cherry continue to shine and do what they do best, offering up their tried and tested formula with southern tinged light-hearted rock anthems and swoons but they also add in a dash of unfamiliar sounds and ideas such as the guest collaborations so they certainly aren’t out of ideas and creativity. CL
Three Days Grace - Outsider The Canadian band has come to grace us with more music, With a sixth studio album under their belts now, ‘Outsider’. This is quite a huge album, as this is the second album in which new vocalist Matt Walst has been featured. The album tells the story of their journey so far during the past few years since vocalist Adam Gontier left back in 2013 and the theme of constantly moving forward despite the setbacks life seems to cause from time to time. It seems that Three Days Grace, with the success of their last album ‘One-X’ have decided to go with the production team from this album with Gavin Brown and Howard Benson reprising their roles as producers for the record. It goes without saying that this record stands out as a record that sheds a few layers to let a new sound shine through. The album starts off with their explosive single ‘Right Left Wrong’ a track that strives to prove the new sound of their band unlike any other on the album. The album then jumps into tracks like ‘The Mountain’ one that is sure to be a favourite for its strong and empowered lyricism and memorable instrumentality. ‘I am an Outsider’ is also a song that will resonate with many listeners as it is about the empowerment of self-worth and for those not afraid to stand above the grid. Songs like ‘Infra-Red’ and ‘Nothing To Lose but You’ are songs that test the albums limits in terms of a peculiar chorus and melody for one and and the other being a lyrically emotional track that is bound to hit you like a ton of bricks. These songs in particular will stay with you long after the album is finished and will have you coming back for a listen every now and then.
The album then comes back to more messages of empowerment with ‘Me Against You’ which turns the tides of the album from emotional to proud and confrontational. It’s definitively a track like that of ‘I am an Outsider’ that shows a sign of growth after the bands first album without their previous vocalist and shows that the band is finally okay with growing up and looking towards the future. Percussion wise it’s an addictive track most will find fun to listen to. We then dive back to more slower, emotive tracks like ‘Love Me or Leave Me’ that have a nice creative use of electronic influence that seem to surprisingly blend in with the instrumental tracks exceptionally well. With amazing guitar riffs intertwined in this track by Barry Stock there is no reason why most won’t be coming back to this track for a re-listen. We then have another spectacular song ‘Villain I’m Not’, that shows Matt’s vocals at their best throughout the whole entire record and instrumentally has a nice energetic and mild mixed pace throughout the track. ‘The New Real’ is a track most will identify with on a social-political base in which social media has become the backbone of modern society. It gives off a raw realistic vibe lyrically of just how most of human society has placed material self-worth over focus on true aspects of life that really matter. We finally end this musical journey with ‘The Abyss’ that again test the strengths of Matt’s diversity and body as a vocalist with a nice mix of dirty and clean vocals. Overall, the album is heavy and forward thinking for the band in many ways, exceeding all possible expectations of what many would think would come from a band that has been around since the mid-90s. Three Days Grace are proving that they still have what it takes to compete with the best of them, new and old.
Pillow Queens - State of the State The Dublin based band is comprised of four girls Sarah Corcoran (guitar, bass, vocals), Pamela Connolly (guitar, bass, vocals), Cathy McGuinness (guitar, vocals), and Rachel Lyons (drums, vocals). ‘State of the State’ is their second EP. With happy and energetic guitar riffs, beautiful vocals, and deep social political lyrics, the band somehow makes concerns about life, relationships, and anxiety fun to listen to. The EP opens with a simple yet lively track ‘Puppets’. The gang vocals backed up against these infectiously warm instrumentals is a brilliant contrast to the solid songwriting that is present through this whole track. It’s a track that immediately shows just who this band is musically. ‘Favourite’ is a great track with an amazing chord progression opening and lead guitar riffs that will leave you listening to this song over and over again. While this is a song most will like more than others on the EP, its simplistic arrangement and nostalgic indie band feel is what gives this song its appeal. ‘Cuckoo’ and ‘Ragin’ are tracks that change the mood of the EP instrumentally, with its playful and memorable minor chords additions and melodic vocal hooks, these tracks are honestly what makes this EP shine on a project that already has established a glowing, glittery atmosphere with just four songs. Overall, the diversity that is put into a four song EP is quite an accomplishment. An emotionally heart driven EP that takes no prisoners, this is a great place to start for the band in 2018. The EP never feels out of place musically thanks to smooth transitions and the great talent instrumentally that all of these ladies possess. This is a band to look out for in 2018 for those still interested in an underground indie band sound. SA
TesseracT - Sonder Having seemingly finally overcome the merry-go-round of vocalists that plagued them for many years, the TesseracT of 2018 are able to flex their full creative muscles on their latest album ‘Sonder’. With ‘Sonder’ being the second album since Dan Tompkins returned to frontman duties, TesseracT's ever present musical excellence feels boosted by a new confidence and assuredness that may well have come from the stability they now have in their line up. ‘Sonder’ begins with TesseracT showcasing their more melodic side, opening track ‘Luminary’ having the occasional blast of disarming riff work but is driven primarily by the melody of Dan Tompkins voice. In particular, the beginning of the chorus, with the line "Are you alone, locked inside that prison in your head" looks set to become something to look forward to at the band's live shows. The album's lead single ‘King’ has an altogether darker tone throughout, with Tompkins harsh vocals given a thorough work out at different points of the track alongside the considerable riffing of James Monteith and Acle Kahney. Throughout, ‘Sonder’ showcases TesseracT's effortless ability to make music that can have an ethereal quality to it in places whilst being impressively heavy in others is still there in spades. ‘Orbital’ is a wonderfully slow placed, understated short track with minimal instrumentation which is measured to perfection. It also serves as the perfect lead in to ‘Juno’, where the riffs are heavy with an ever so slight djent tinge, but definitely less so than on some of their previous work. ‘Juno’ is also a song where Dan is able to showcase much of his hugely impressive range, and also features a wonderful drumming performance from Jay Postones, both in the heavier and lighter sections of the track. ‘Mirror Image’ is another track where TesseracT are able to balance periods of heaviness with quieter moments and make it seem incredibly easy in the process, while cranking things back up to full blast for the aptly named ‘Smile’, as both this song and the album as a whole are likely to cause this reaction for the majority of listeners. ‘The Arrow’ brings things to a conclusion in a fitting way, the track fading out gently, allowing the listener to reflect on what is a thoroughly enjoyable album by a band back to the peak of their powers. It would be no surprise to see ‘Sonder’ among many album of the year lists come the end of 2018, something that would be thoroughly deserved. JG
Myles Kennedy - Thekla Bristol - 24/03/18 With the announcement of his solo tour, Myles wanted to do something different by playing in smaller and more intimate venues across the UK. So from the get go, it was already pretty surreal to see one of the biggest modern rock stars in the world today play on a boat in Bristol (Thekla!). Taken from 'Year Of The Tiger' he opened the show with 'Devil on the Wall' instantly giving us a taste of his brilliant solo album. Straight away Myles is keen to create an atmosphere with the crowd and goes on to tell the audience what they can expect from the set, which is sort of a greatest hits of his work with Alter Bridge, Slash & The Mayfield Four with his new solo work of course being layered in there as well. As the set continues, he does just that! Songs like 'Before Tomorrow Comes', 'Starlight', 'All Ends Well' get a brilliant response from the crowd, and show just how many fantastic songs Myles has been a part of in his career. The solo material really stood out, and although it had only been out for a week the crowd were singing the words right back to Myles. Tracks like 'Haunted By Design' & 'Year Of The Tiger' show that there's a huge potential for this side of his career. With the lyrical theme being so intense on 'Year Of The Tiger', it must be extremely rewarding for Myles to already be receiving praise from his extremely dedicated fan base on these run of dates. Thrown in to show his influences behind 'Year Of The Tiger' we are treated to 'Travelling Riverside Blues', another diverse side of his influences. He hits us with the pumping 'Addicted To Pain', hits hard with an outstanding version of 'World on Fire', and then strips everything back with the mesmerising 'Love Can Only Heal'. To finish, he left the crowd wanting more and in awe by playing an insane cover of 'Hallelujah'! If these shows were a challenge to see if Myles had what it takes to be a solo musician, then this evening it's pretty clear that he has more than surpassed that goal. 'Year Of The Tiger' is one hell of a debut solo release, and when you combine that with every other track that he has been involved with, then how can the set be anything less than amazing? AD
Feeder - Bristol 02 Academy - 07/03/18 After the incredible response to 'All Bright Electric' the band are clearly on a wave of creative goodness right now as with their 'The Best Of' album they even threw in a new mini album entitled 'Arrow' to simply show that great songs are just pouring out of the band right now. 'The Best Of' album features 21 top 40 UK singles hits, and in short is a reminder of how important this band is to the alternative rock scene in the UK. So when you combine the success of 'All Bright Electric' with the effort that has gone into 'The Best Of' then this is obviously going to be an incredible time to watch Feeder play live. Basically I knew I was in for a great show before it even started. With so many songs to pick from with their recent releases, it was really hard to have any idea what the band were going to perform tonight, which for me is always really exciting. They instantly went straight back to the 'Polythene' track 'My Perfect Day' and with their recent re-recorded version of it, this actually seemed like a really appropriate (and obviously awesome) song to open the night with! The band cruise on at light speed and take us through a wave of outstanding Feeder classics including 'Insomnia', 'Universe of Life', Feeling a Moment', 'Pushing the Senses', 'Lost & Found', all being performed with a dedicated approach to show their impressive growth as musicians over the years. Stepping it back a bit, Grant goes acoustic and gives us renditions of 'Silent Cry' & 'Children of the Sun' the latter being a request that he heard from the audience, always great when a band/act does this. Launching back into the full band approach with 'Eskimo', 'Come Back Around', 'Just the Way I'm Feeling' and of course the mighty 'Buck Rogers' the band unsurprisingly get an exceptional response. Other than these anthems, I did want to point out that they did play 'Stereo World' & 'Cement' which were really unexpected and showed that the band had really gone over all of their material when it came to putting together the setlist for this tour. Coming back for an encore, the band end on 'Just A Day' which has a manic 00s type mosh pit on the go throughout. For me, and I think the band will agree, this show is part of one of the best and rewarding tours the band have ever done. Not only does it show have far they've come, but with 'All Bright Electric' and 'Arrow' going down so well then it shows that they also have a very exciting future ahead of them. What. A. Band. AD
Don Broco - Bristol 02 Academy - 09/02/18 Opening the night in an incredible fashion is Press To MECO, featured in this issue they are a band that you need to hear right now if you haven't done so already. They have a sound that can't be pigeonholed into any genre of music in an exciting way, and their live shows are always very thrilling to watch. Tracks like 'Familiar Ground' and 'If All Your Parts Don't Make a Whole' are brilliant to watch and both show the overwhelming musicianship the band has to offer. However the highlight for me is actually their new song 'Here's to the Fatigue' a stomping track that acts as a suitable end to their set. Now for something very different, with their wolf masks on and all the way from Japan it's Man with a Mission. Although this band wasn't something for me, it was obvious that from the effort they were putting into every track that they were indeed winning over new fans throughout their performance with their unique rock style. Tracks like 'Emotions' and 'DANCE EVERYBODY' got the crowd engaged, and although they didn't get the same kind of response as Press To MECO they are a band with potential to make waves in the UK when they return.
This has probably come up in Stencil Mag at some point, but with music it's sometimes better to have a gradual growth than just exploding on your debut album and then trying to reach that level again with the follow-up album. With Don Broco they have gradually grown and built up their fan base in a very natural way, and with 'Technology' breaching the top ten albums chart then that hard work has finally paid off. With the album just being released then this was the perfect time to watch Don Broco live as they take on this career changing tour. Before they even came on there was already an atmosphere in the room, as I was watching from the balcony, you could already see that there was barely any space to hold your pint on the floor below, you could tell it was going to get a bit hectic. I wasn't wrong, as from the moment they kicked into 'Pretty' and 'Everybody' the whole crowd were singing in unison with every word Rob sang whilst jumping along to those funky and intense riffs that the band are now known for. 'Priorities' was really interesting to watch live, as one of the first big hits for the band it was a great throwback to where it all kicked off for them, and with the newer material surrounding it on the set it was well placed to show how they've progressed over the last couple of years. The band take mainly from 'Technology' and 'Superlove' tonight, and to sum up I was simply blown away by the show. 'You Wanna Know', 'Fire', 'Money Power Fame', 'Automatic' were my stand out moments from the set, and it's very possible that an arena tour is on the cards for these guys within the next year. AD
Grayscale This pop punk powerhouse are infamous for blending jarring emotive content and a remedial sound to their tracks that blend both all the best parts of pop punk with a hint of emo and an indie rock twang. Since their formation in 2011, these guys are on the rise for their unique musical sound and “wind in the sails” uplifting melodies. On their most recent release of ‘Adornment’ through Fearless Records they boasted their eleven track showcase of abilities, and once again impressed their listeners. Prior to that, the boys released ‘What We’re Missing’ which had some of my personal favourites like ‘Bloom’ and ‘Say Something’. Having branded themselves apart from other generic sounds and boasting good live reviews, Slam Dunk will be lucky to have these guys on their roster.
LD Sleep On It Indie alternative act Sleep On It are making waves in the Chicago scene, and expanding quickly. They released a single in 2015 titled ‘Bright’ which essentially marked the beginning of their career as an indie-alt act. Over the years they followed this up with the release of ‘Safe Again’ and ‘Overexposed’. Currently signed to Equal Vision Records, the boys have an impressive set of tracks already. Members TJ Horansky (lead guitar), Jake Marquis (rhythm guitar), AJ Khah (bass), Luka Fischman (drums), and Zech Pluister (lead vocals) make up the whole of the indie act. The guys are gearing up for a great year with their summer long appearance on 2018’s wave goodbye to Warped Tour and of course Slam Dunk Festival! LD
Four Year Strong Pop punk vets Four Year Strong from Worcester, Massachusetts have blessed the eyes of all going to Slam Dunk with their name on the roster. With multiple fan favourite releases like the original album ‘It’s Our Time’ or recent release in 2017 ‘Some of You Will Like This, Some Of You Won’t’, these guys have proved that their tunes are a hot commodity. Some of their most recent news include a music video for ‘Nice To Know’, which was a single released in August 2017. Infamous for their signature style of pop punk blended with the heavy set digs of hardcore, Four Year Strong makes for a solid listen for anyone who digs the likes of hardcore with the catchiness of pop punk. These guys have been kicking around since 2001, so make sure to catch this talented act at Slam Dunk in May for their trademark ‘pop-core’ sound. LD
Save Ferris Orange County ska punks, Save Ferris, have spent the past year relishing the response to their first release in nearly 18 years ‘Checkered Past’. After overcoming the odds, front woman Monique Powell, reunited her band in 2013 to face a sold out arena in her hometown. Fast forward to present day and the band is still staying active and quenching everyone’s thirst for 90s nostalgia and ska punk! Get ready to dance! MC
Press To MECO Gaining respect in many different circles of alternative rock and hooks catchy enough for the pop punk crowd, Press to MECO has been taking their sweet time with their latest release whilst signing to the awesome Marshall Records. While building anticipation along the way, fans have stayed loyal and eager. Their unique fusion of rock sounds combined with their theatrical visuals and music videos has earned this outfit a place onto festivals and tours with huge acts. With their relentless approach then it’s no surprise. MC
The Plot In You For the Ohio based metalcore/post-hardcore band, The Plot In You, things are only looking up. Currently signed to Fearless Records They are known for supporting some of the best in the genre. The hype for their latest release ‘Dispose’ has been huge, and the band are bringing their pop-sensibilities to the genre and racking up the listens and followers. MC
Crown The Empire Crown the Empire has always been one to go with the flow. From lineup changes to evolving sounds, they’ve pressed on to bring their music to their fans. With their epic, atmospheric brand of metalcore. This awesome band are known for their sharp production and energetic live shows, not to mention their extravagant music videos. So it goes without saying that these guys are just an absolute must watch at Slam Dunk Festival this year!
Zebrahead One of the remaining survivors of the California skate punk bubble of the 90s, Zebrahead still keep fans singing along. After more than 20 years and 12 albums, the band is still going strong and writing and recording new material. They may have retired the fingerless gloves and cargo shorts (and the Playboy Bunnies) but they’re still packing out arenas and playing alongside huge bands like Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and many more! MC
As It Is As It Is are one of the best pop punk bands from the last decade! 'Never Happy, Ever After' & 'okay.' have gone on to re-shape what we can expect from this music scene in a very exciting way, and when you combine that with their stomping live performance then how can this not be a great band to watch at Slam Dunk? We have no doubt that they'll have the crowd jumping from the front to the back, and certainly be a highlight for many. ‘Pretty Little Distance', 'Can't Save Myself', 'Winter's Weather' and of course 'Dial Tones' are all must hear tracks.
Comeback Kid With a span of incredible albums that have graced our ears since ‘Turn it Around’ in 2003 the band has toured all over North America and Europe due to their amazing positive interaction over the years through touring and have no plans of stopping any time soon. It comes as no surprise that this band has become the staple of the hardcore community. The band continuously experiments with new lyrical and instrumental elements that go way beyond the staples of hardcore music of today, SA .
Northlane To this day the band continues to be one the best progressive metalcore bands to date. Since ‘Mesmer’, the album has proven and defined their sound in a beautiful and unorthodox manner. A sound that is raw and human to their structure lyrically to instrumentally, it is with high hopes that the band continues to be organic and personal but still looking at the bigger picture of a person and the world we live in today, SA
Jimmy Eat World They shot up to success after the release of their inredible album ‘Bleed American’, and since then it has just been non-stop for this influential band. Through their nine albums Jimmy Eat World remains one of the most trailblazing bands of the mid-90s in the emocore scene, which branched them into the larger alternative rock and power pop scene. The band continues to be an influence to this day for many modern bands and remain a figure in commercialized rock. An absolute “must watch” at Slam Dunk!
SA Sleeping With Sirens They are returning to Slam Dunk after their performance back in 2013 and it will certainly be a welcomed return with their infectiously catchy rock especially with their latest 2017 release ‘Gossip’ which is full of melodic anthems for the crowds to participate with making for the perfect festival act. I’m sure they will also have time to play all their other fan favourites also such as ‘If You Can’t Hang’ and ‘Kick Me’ so it should be a diverse and high energy set!
CL TWIN ATLANTIC When it comes to alternative rock bands in the UK, then Twin Atlantic are one of the best and well known right now. They've taken on festivals all across the country, and tracks like 'Heart & Soul', 'No Sleep', 'Free' have given them an insanely dedicated fan base. So if you want to watch rock music that is loud, catchy, and just awesome to witness then this is the band for you! At this point in their career they know how to work a crowd, and we have no doubt that they will go down extremely well at Slam Dunk! AD
Taking Back Sunday From cutting their teeth in the pop emo bubble of the early 2000s, Taking Back Sunday has evolved beyond those angsty high school lyrics. Sure, you can still hear them play the classics like ‘Cute Without The E’ and ‘MakeDamnSure’ at just about any show they’re on, but they’ve worked hard to push the boundaries of pop rock and punk. Maturing past their roots in an exciting way Taking Back Sunday have earned a longevity with their music. Don’t miss out! MC
Every Time I Die For a band that’s been on the scene for a little bit...ETID still have more energy than most young bands sipping on Monster and hoping to make mainstage at Warped this year. The band is still riding the wave of changing the game in metalcore - AGAIN - with their 2016 release, ‘Low Teens’. Whether in a club or a stadium (or occasionally a boat) Every Time I Die can command a crowd like the cult leaders they are. Known for some of the wildest shows in their respective genre, the band has more than 15 years worth of music with riffs hard enough to crush your empty beer cans and lyrics that fans can’t stop screaming. MC
Thursday Most people like to tell themselves that no band really breaks up forever, though that’s not always true, thankfully this was the case for post hardcore godfathers, Thursday. After reuniting in 2016, the band has sparsely toured the states and headlined a couple big festivals. Armed with a fresh outlook and an anticipating fanbase, Thursday is taking it all in their stride and are bringing their classic post hardcore sounds to nostalgic fans. Be prepared to hear hits from 'War All the Time' & 'Full Collapse', as well as an intense performance that will captivate everyone in attendance at Slam Dunk! MC
Creeper Newer to the scene, Creeper has boldly made their mark in punk from their debut album, ‘Eternity, In Your Arms.’ Earning praises from the media world, whilst building a huge fan base the band were most recently the main support on tour with All Time Low, which is absolutely justified. Creeper scratches an itch left by My Chemical Romance, with their theatrics and thematics, while still returning to a root punk sensibility anyone can enjoy. So start revising those lyrics, as the audience tend to sing extremely loud for this band... MC
Good Charlotte Known for hits such as 'The Anthem', 'Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous', 'Girls & Boys', 'I Just Wanna Live', 'Predictable', '40 ox. Dream', 'Makeshift Love' and many more this pop punk/alt rock act have made a name for themselves since starting out in the 90s. After a hiatus they returned stronger than ever with their comeback album 'Youth Authority' in 2016 which simply reminded people why this band have always been so important. You know it's going to be a jam packed and great set to watch, so don't miss out! AD
Dream State You may have heard the name Dream State floating around recently - formed in 2014, the Welsh post-hardcore five-piece have an impressive resume for a recently signed band, with over a million listens on Spotify and have secured huge slots at festivals including Reading and Leeds. But it is no wonder they are receiving some well-deserved recognition when they keep smashing out ridiculously addictive tracks like ‘White Lies’. SC
State Champs Slam Dunk would be a bland margarita without some feel good pop punk. Joining the party and adding that extra flavour this year is New York’s favourite pop punkers State Champs. Already State Champs have made their mark in the UK with their energetic choruses and contagious yet, emotive lyrics. So grab your throat lozenges and prepare to sing senselessly loudly to ‘Elevated’. SC
PVRIS The female fronted electro pop rock band PVRIS are returning to Slam Dunk for the second time this year and something tells me the crowds may be even more jam-packed this time. The Massachusetts electro pop rock band has universally won the hearts of millions of fans with their liberating messages, public campaigning for gay rights and not to mention their successful and versatile albums ‘White Noise’ and ‘All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell’. Live PVRIS release a prevailing energy that will leave you mesmerised. SC
Capdown English ska/punk rockers are known for their interesting and captivating sound which includes mixing ska, punk, hardcore, reggae and drum and bass and this concoction makes for an unforgettable and fun live experience which goes down a treat and is not to be missed. They are no strangers to Slam Dunk and as a band that have been doing this for a long time with the guarantee of getting the crowds bouncing and skanking it’s no wonder they keep getting invited back! CL
Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes These guys are bringing a heavier element and this will be their first time appearing at the festival (but not for Frank as he has performed with Gallows previously) and with their rowdy and lively reputation they are bound to deliver a commanding set full of all their best hits such as ‘Wild Flowers’, ‘Juggernaut’ and recent single ‘Spray Paint Love’ which should appease the masses with their range of sounds. CL
Reel Big Fish With the gold certified album ‘Turn the Radio Off’, the band cemented themselves as not only one of the best bands in its genre at the time, but also one of the most influential bands in the era that would pave the way for other artists inspired by their unique sound. Having made close to ten studio albums from 1995 (’Everything Sucks’) to 2012 (’Candy Coated Fury’) they have built up an absolutely incredible setlist that will have you “skanking” from the moment they hit the stage. With tracks like 'Sell Out' 'Beer' and 'Take On Me' then this is a set that you just don’t want to miss! SA
Counterparts Fom ‘Prophets’ (2007) to ‘Your Not Here Anymore’ (2017), the band continues to be one of the most visibly creative acts within the contemporary melodic hardcore genre. The impact of the their music has garnered a lot of attention from scene predecessors and new bands alike. This band keeps proving time and time again that they have what it takes to stick around, touring with bands such as It Prevails, August Burns Red, The Ghost Inside, and Bane. Tossing the bands quick raise to fame aside, their music takes listeners with every album on a reflective listening experience that knows no bounds. Counterparts are not afraid to show themselves in a pure, unrestrained, vulnerable light to their fans. SA
Goldfinger If you haven’t heard ‘Open Your Eyes’, ‘Superman’, and their insane cover of ‘99 Red Balloons’ then we strongly advise that you give those a spin right now! This band are just brilliant to watch live, and to add to that they are no strangers to playing at Slam Dunk Festival. Their new album ‘The Knife’ shows a promising and exciting future for this highly influential act, and we have no doubt that they will once again put on an incredible show at this year’s event. Get involved! AD
“Encompassing the heritage and authenticity of the likes of Metallica and Slipknot with the savvy of Bullet For My Valentine, Beneath The Embers have it nailed” – Chris Pearson, BFBS UK and Radio Caroline. Rising from the North Essex metal scene are a small band of brothers going by the name of ‘Beneath The Embers’. A Colchester based four piece creating a musical tone sat firmly in between Thrash and Metalcore. Beneath The Embers fully established themselves in 2016 when singer/songwriter Lewis Roland met lead guitarist Clint Bredin in a random chain of events on musical social media. Fuelled by a mutual interest in the heavier elements of Metal music and a desire to write, Lewis was invited to hook up with the remainder of the band where the group immediately started to write original material. It wasn’t long before an independent record deal was secured with Oakfield Records and studio recording on the debut EP began. “It was pretty clear right away that the band just clicked and we were onto something” says Lewis. “Me and Clint found writing together easy and the time was just right for all of us to now pursue our common goal”. The eclectic influences from each member has created a collaboration where Clint’s ferocious riffs, with a nod to the old school are framed perfectly by the raw power and speed of the band’s exceptionally tight rhythm section. With Luke Bredin on bass and Spencer Churchill driving the band’s pacey groove on drums, the sound is showcased excellently by frontman Lewis’s vocal ability in delivering brutal verses and catchy choruses. The band’s breakdowns contrast the faster sections flawlessly where you can’t help but tap or bang your head along to any of it. When asked about the band’s sound Spence stated “We write material we enjoy playing; the music will then be what it is and hopefully people like it as much as we do”. With the release of their debut EP Ashes in 2017, Beneath The Embers have their sights set firmly on cementing a fan base throughout 2018. “Recording is one thing but delivering a confident and credible performance with music people want to hear is something else” says Clint.
The EP is available on all streaming sites!
“What it really comes down to for us is four friends having fun writing original music that we really believe in” states Luke. “One of us is still a full time soldier, all of us have full time careers and three of us are dads; time is precious and can’t be wasted so we are now ready to share our material with a wider audience”. “Ashes is classic metal at its finest, with big infectious riffs and screamed vocals in amongst engaging melodic hooks aplenty” – Rob Ilaz, GigRadar.
I’ll be the first to admit, I am the world’s biggest weenie when it comes to scary movies. Anything that ventures out of my romantic comedy- Disney film- “everything will be fine” repertoire is getting the axe. I won’t do it. That being said, I promised myself that I would try more new things this year. I chose to watch the new Insidious production, Insidious: the Last Key which hit the public back in January. I remember seeing the ads for it, and I said “I am never going to watch that” but here we are. Here we are. It tells the story of Elise, a paranormal sympathetic, and her two associates Specs (Steven) and Tucker who are investigating her childhood home that was called into question due to evil presences. I’ll start out by saying before the movie even started, I was already freaked out with the intro music to the Universal Studios logo starting. If that doesn’t scream weenie then I don’t know what does! It opens with Elise as a small child being beaten by her father for her gift, and it depicts the consequences of her gift as she lets a demon out by accidentally opening the gateway. I really enjoyed the opening of the film with children as it exemplifies the severity of her gift and how it impacts Elise’s life on the canvas of the innocence of children. That being said, I really enjoyed the soundscape to the movie. I felt that it did add a whole other dimension to the film (unfortunately for me) down to the most minute of details. The first two thirds of the movie I was actually quite fond of. Once I got past being afraid of the film that is... I know some of you readers out there will say, “Suck it up Lia, you are the worst” and before you do we can agree to agree. I know..
I was actually quite impressed by the usage of documentary style filming in the beginning aspects of the film which gave a try live action, realistic feel to the film. On the contrary though, the ending of the film was so far on the end of the spectrum with a demon, and a constructed hell like dungeon. Given the realistic nature of the beginning of the film, I honestly did not like the way the end panned out. It felt fake, and to be honest, not that scary. I think for me the key to being scared is feeling like I am there with the characters, and feeling as if what’s happening in the film could happen to me at any moment. This was achieved through documentary style filming (usage of a chest cam on main character, Elise) and the lack of a exaggerated soundscape. There were many scenes filled with silence and small noises which builds tension and leaves the watcher to wonder, “What’s out there in the silence of my own home?” The ending felt so constructed that it no longer even scared me because I knew it wasn’t possible. I think that this kind of ending could have worked for a film that was like that through and through but the mix was uncanny and uncomfortable for me. Overall, I am quite glad that I watched this movie even though I probably won’t sleep at night despite watching it in the broad daylight. The first two thirds hit the mark for me, and I think I will probably give more movies of this nature a shot. It achieved the goal of scaring me, and made great usage of different shooting styles and character placement in frame to keep the watcher engaged and on their toes. Despite the ending seeming constructed and a little unsavory for my taste, I was happy with the majority of the film and glad that I watched it.
Arborview is a pop-punk band from Sydney Australia. Signed to LA based indie label, We Are Triumphant, the boys are set to turn heads across the globe. Scotty Berger (vocals and guitar), Alex Powys (drums), Eamon O'Byrne (bass) formed together in 2017 simply with a mutual interest in the same style of music and the love for performing and entertaining the crowd. The boys have been pushing hard with their music, constantly writing, performing and engaging their fans in all ways possible. Their tracks have gained huge traction on Spotify. The boys are different as Alex comes from a background of jazz fusion and metal, incorporating this into the genre of pop-punk with his unique style of playing. Scotty's range is out of this world and his lyrical capabilities can suck you into the world of music and connect the audience in a spiritual level. Eamon's upbeat stage presence is something you can't miss out on. He will keep you entertained the entire set with his awesome range of jumps and spins.
Features interviews from the following: Myles Kennedy, Feeder, Frank Turner, Skindred, Gaz Coombes, Crown The Empire, Andrew W.K., Creeper,...
Published on Mar 30, 2018
Features interviews from the following: Myles Kennedy, Feeder, Frank Turner, Skindred, Gaz Coombes, Crown The Empire, Andrew W.K., Creeper,...