Interview with Tiggy, Matt
Can you tell us how Eva Plays Dead originally formed? M: Tiggy and I started writing music together when we were around 16 years old after meeting in Japan on a school exchange trip. We took a while to find our feet and decide what we wanted to do but decided to kick it all off at the beginning of 2013.
So, how did you get to the band name Eva Plays Dead, and what does it mean to you? S: Eva was sort of struck out of nowhere, but the words “Plays Dead” came from a song 'Play Dead' by a band we all grew up listening to and were from the same local area called Patchwork Grace. It means a lot to us because watching them fed our hunger to go out and start a band ourselves, so to us 'Plays Dead' is almost a tribute to them in a way and helps us remember why we're trying to do what we do.
How did the original sound of Eva Plays Dead come together? M: Our approach to writing has always been to get in a room and throw some riffs around, bounce ideas off of each other and keep working until we’re completely happy. The “original sound” came together as our music does now… by writing whatever we want. We each have very broad influences and listen to a lot of music from different genres so we naturally mesh together aspects from all that we listen to.
What is it like to be a part of the music scene in Nottingham & Derby? M: We've never really fit into the local scene - from day 1 we were booking shows around the country to play as many new cities as possible and spread the EPD gospel. Nowadays though, our local shows are always really fun and packed out so it's kind of worked in reverse order for us! There is now a real show of support between local artists.
How did the EP title for 'The Fix' come together, and what does it mean to you? T: The last two years for Eva Plays Dead haven't been easy as I have been battling mental illness, something that I have struggled with for a very long time. In 2017 I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and I struggled not only with controlling my moods but also with addiction and self destructive behaviour as I was trying to “fix” my problems and try heal my relationships not only with the band, but the people around me. On this road to better mental health I noted that sometimes there isn't a fix and that you have to accept what you've got and work with it, making it the best you can possibly make it. Perfect for the EP title.
We've read that "'The Fix' is a "reinvention of classic rock at its best" so can you elaborate on that, and what we can expect from the overall sound of the EP? M: I'm not sure I completely agree with the statement. We do take influence from classic rock bands but equally we are inspired by extremely modern bands such as Black Peaks, Marmozets and Biffy Clyro. I like to think that we take the raw energy and some sounds (such as my choice of guitar tone) from classic rock music but we are MUCH more than that.
t and Seb
You've said that 'The Fix' is a "highly personal release", so if possible, can you tell us a bit about that, and what readers can expect from the lyrical content on the EP?
T: As previously stated, I (and other members) have really struggled with chronic mental health illnesses meaning stays in hospitals and added pressure on life and the band. Having untreated bipolar disorder nearly ended my life on numerous occasions, my life was at points out of control, even living was so difficult to do without having 15 plus hours of sleep a day. The thing with bipolar is that you never really know what you're going to feel like, one day you will wake up suicidal and so unwell that doctors literally think you're sick enough to be in hospital, then the next day you wake up feeling like Beyonce; super fierce and so full of energy you make yourself believe that spending all your money is okay. With this comes chronic anxiety, addiction, irrational behaviour. Bipolar is so up and down and I wanted to be very literal with this EP. My lyrics are always very literal and I wanted to make a point of saying that some days I am OK, some days I want to scream, some days I want to dance and some days I’m sexy as hell....so yeah. LISTEN.
Who produced the EP, and how would you say they helped shape it? S: The EP was produced by Romesh Dodangoda, who in our opinion is one of the most incredible rock and metal producers you can work with. He brought a breath of fresh air to our recording process because he helped reassure ourselves when we were unsure or not confident about something. It's nice to have a producer that can objectively compare something we've done to some of the other bands he has worked with and still say that this is great. It gives you a good boost.
What was the hardest track on 'The Fix' to put together, and why? S: Well, not ‘Get Back’ because that was written in literally 30 minutes. ‘Colours’ was probably the hardest to nail down in the studio just because it's the most dynamic and it has so many layers to it. I remember Tiggy spent the most time on it in the vocal booth, because of all the the harmonies and wavy vocal parts in the bridge section.
How did the artwork for 'The Fix' come together, and what does it mean to you? M: We started out with the idea of vintage medical journals for our singles ‘Bones’ and ‘Spin’ to capture the subject of the lyrics.
S: The EP artwork came about by us trying to visually tie together what we had put out with our singles, because the EP is mainly trying to bring attention to a lot of the mental health issues people have today and it talks a lot about Tiggy’s experiences with bipolar disorder. We knew it had to be about something that involved the brain and medication and health. We gave our ideas to Mark Leary (the artist) and he came out with something cool which we love.
What made you want to work with pledge music for this release, and how was that whole experience for you? M: Because it was such a personal release, we wanted to keep it DIY to ensure that we could do it EXACTLY the way we wanted to. Pledge is a great platform for independent artists like ourselves to communicate directly to our fan base and let it grow organically. There was a real sense of community amongst the fans throughout the entirity of the campaign to help us reach our target!
S: We wanted to work with pledge music with this release because we liked the idea of giving our fans more options during the release of the EP, so instead of just buying the EP on itunes instead it could be bundled with lots of other brand new merchandise and signed posters etc. To us it made more of a celebration out of the release as it had been two years since we’d released any music at all.
So, how would you say this release compares overall to what you did on 'Sound of the Written Word'? S: This release just felt more accepted and wholesome! The music is at a whole other level and we spent a lot more time trying to forge it into a whole conceptual package opposed to just 5 bunched together songs. Also it’s the first time we’ve been getting orders from all over the world from places like Japan, Italy and the US so it’s amazing to find out your name is beginning to cross borders now.
How did the idea for your own record label 'Playing Dead Recs' come together, and what has it been like to run alongside the band? M: Ironically, it was our way of establishing ourselves as truly independent. It means that there is no ambiguity as to who is in control of our music. Us and us alone. It’s been hard work managing everything about this release but we’re really proud about having done it all ourselves.
What else can we expect to see from Eva Plays Dead in 2018? M: We’re doing all that we can to take our music as far as possible. We’ve always been about live shows and touring hard so that is the intention!
What is the music scene in Glasgow like to be a part of? ANA: It’s so wonderful to see how we we have grown here. We moved to Glasgow to dive right into the scene itself and we appreciate every venue and individual who has helped us on this journey.
How did the sound of Altered Sky originally come together? ANA: I didn’t have the opportunity to study music at school. I had been giving studying a degree in psychology a shot but music was always pushing through. Eventually I figured that my time was better spent putting my heart and soul into expressing ideas through music rather than on paper.
Looking back on your debut album 'Without Wonderland', how happy are you with it still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Altered Sky? ANA: This album is a true representation of what we had become after our initial six years together - we were still a baby! I can put WW on and have always been able to pick a song for the moment. I’m so grateful to hear these songs as they remind me exactly what we have gone through together to grow.
Interview with Ana, Amy, Tara
For those that might of not picked it up just yet, can you tell them a bit about it? ANA: Itâ€™s about a struggle. Every song explores a theme of loss in some way and by the end of each track, the music takes over and pushes you to realise that anything can be overcome.
What will you take from the creative process of 'Without Wonderland' going forward as musicians? ANA: Be prepared, but be prepared for change. Music is ever-changing. We may hit the studio with a fully realised song, video and concept but then find that one lead line or one rhythm can take you somewhere entirely different. No matter what it will touch you in some way.
You did a tour of Japan and the Philippines in late 2017! So how was that, and what do you remember the most from these run of dates? ANA: Thunderstorms and ridiculously hot weather! We met some wonderful people on these journeys and will never forgot the relationships we have made and now solidified. Other than me getting ill and going to hospital the entire experience was a god send.
How did the â€˜Edu-tour' idea originally come together, and how rewarding has this been for you as a band to do? ANA: I used to teach singing lesson to students a few years back and we thought it would be a good idea to do a full band show for the schools locally. It's so humbling to know that we are helping the kids realise that a career in music is an attainable one.
This might be a hard question now, but what band do you think you've learnt the most from on tour, and why? AMY: While we were on tour in Japan we met a band called Unclose who have inspired us massively in regards to our live performance. They have been so clever in the way they write their live show, its almost portrayed as a piece of theatre. Their use of backing tracks really helps piece everything together and makes every song move seamlessly into the next. It really opened our eyes in terms of writing our new show that we will be taking out with us to Download.
How excited are you for your upcoming slot at Download Festival, and what can attending fans expect? AMY: Stupidly excited! It's been a dream of ours for the past eight years as a band and longer than that, as individuals, we have the opportunity to play this monster of a festival. We are so humbled to be invited to play alongside a mass of other bands who we have so much love and respect for. We will be bringing with us our new live show as well as a few new songs which will be featured on our next album. We can't wait for our fans to hear our new material and hope that they have grown with our sound.
Have you started work on any new material just yet, if so, what do you think fans can expect from it? TARA: We have indeed started work on new material! We have about seven fully formed songs and we're even playing a few of them live on our upcoming shows, including Download Festival. In my opinion, I think fans can expect a more mature and defined sound! We've taken a slightly heavier route with the new songs and itâ€™s sounding huge already. Super excited to hit the studio and start solidifying album two!
What else can we expect to see from Altered Sky in 2018? ANA: This is a new beginning for Altered Sky. 2018 is going to be killer for us! New album, new videos, new show... we've got a lot to say this time around and we want everyone to join us on this journey together. PEACE!
So when did you first get into playing music? I've been a fan of music since I was very very (very) small. Apparently I used to write songs on the way to playschool/nursery/whatever but you'll have to verify those songs with my Mum - I'm not sure how good the choruses were. I tried cello at school and had a teacher who clearly hated children, or maybe himself. Anyway, in the end I started learning guitar and it was onwards and upwards from then. I played in bands, then I stopped doing that because I can be quite hard work socially. Doing this thing solo limited arguments - it's hard to fall out with yourself.
What were your main influences as a musician growing up, and why? Growing up, my music taste was.. eclectic? I really enjoyed pop stuff in the 90s, especially Michael Jackson, and then I got a really cool guitar teacher and got into metal when some of my friends did. I'm not sure how many other people have albums by Metallica and Rednex, but that's me. What I do now isn't like either of those bands, but when no-one's looking I do like to bust out some â€˜Thrillerâ€™. When I stopped just listening to music and actually started paying attention to how songs were put together, I loved artists like Elliott Smith and Death Cab For Cutie. They were the gateway to the sort of acts I listen to today, buried somewhere in the american underground. Oh, and Lorde. Lorde is ace. In terms of what I sound like, special bonus mention for Frank Turner who defined the folk-but-not-really-folk scene I ended up becoming a part of. Playing in front of his crowds did a lot to help me find the right style for me and I owe him whisky forever.
What's it like to be a part of the music scene in Reading, and how has it changed over the years for you? This sounds really naff, but I can't tell you much about the Reading music scene. I have some good friends who spend a lot of time at shows in Reading watching its many, many bands but I spend a lot of my time away from there. When I do get a chance to actually get out to a show, there's a great BBC Introducing night at the Purple Turtle in town, and Club Velocity put on some excellent shows at my favourite venue, the Rising Sun Arts Centre. In terms of then vs. now, Reading has recently spat out The Amazons and Sundara Karma into the world so it seems to be doing pretty well. These things tend to be cyclical - we'll go for ages without a band breaking out, and then three or four will happen at once. Our main problems have always been bands moving on to London just as they start to get big enough to be noticed, and just generally being too close to London for touring acts to call by. Some do though, and we love them for it.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? I've just finished the third tour in support of third album ‘Get Found’, which was a quick jaunt around this fair isle. The highlight of that was a couple of great shows, one in Cheltenham and one at the Monarch in Camden. I'm not sure what I'd do without the Monarch - the staff are great, they do everything to support the bands they like and it's a great meeting place. So that would be a highlight, plus the time we stayed in a service station motel. Nothing says life on the road like rocking up to an out-of-town Days Inn at 2am. In reality, I can't give you any highlights from life on the road because I'm sworn to secrecy by the Musicians Union.
Looking back on 'Get Found', how happy are you with the album still, and what do you think it's done for you as a musician? ‘Get Found’ was like a personal triumph. It was written during two huge events in my life and before a third, which kept me out of action for eighteen months or so. Getting to finally record it, release it and find where my limits were/are playing shows again felt like a victory. ‘Get Found’ isn't perfect - I'd change it if I could - but the album is more about imperfection so I'm not sure getting it perfect would suit it.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Get Found' right now, and why? I'm really enjoying ‘Nights’ at the moment. The crowd seem to ask for it and it's fun to play - it's about hoping your worst enemy/enemies have points in their lives where they're lonely, sad or scared, awake in the middle of the night. Even though it's been out for a year I'm only just now learning how to properly play the songs from ‘Get Found’. They change so much in the studio from start to finish during the recording process, once the album is done there's always a learning process about how to play them live in a way that's faithful to the original and the finished album version.
One of your most recent tracks ‘Safe Mode’ has already become a live favourite. So can you tell us about how it came together, and if possible, what the track means to you? Sure. 'Safe Mode' is about being told to be careful with your lifestyle in order to not put your health at risk and trying to a) not let poor health or these concerns define who you are and b) trying to find a good balance between doing what you want versus doing what you should. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, but more flattered with what it seems to mean to other people who can relate to it on some level.
Have you started work on any new material just yet, if so, what can we expect to see from it? I have! The writing process rolls on endlessly. I'm not giving much away at the moment. It's definitely not going to be finished in 2018. I recently bought a violin from a charity shop for ÂŁ40 and I aim to make some really horrible noises with it. Genuinely.
How excited are you to finally be taking on the main stage at 2000 Trees Festival this year, and what can attending fans expect? How excited? I'd say Really, Really Excited. A spot on the main stage has been on the cards for ages, I'm glad it's finally come through. I've put a band together but, being me, we won't have time to practice together beforehand. Why do things the easy way? Last year I played the forest stage on a Saturday morning in front of some very hungover faces; this year my goal is to at least be playing in the afternoon, and to melt the faces of passers-by.
Why do you think this festival has become so important to the alternative music scene in the UK? 2000Trees is like no other festival. I mean, they book great bands, but I'm 80% sure that even if the line up was totally secret people would still turn up for the scenery and the community. I think my first Trees was 2009, and even today I see a lot of faces I recognise.. just a decade older. It's also really good at growing organically, it's not got a mammoth attendance like Glastonbury or Reading.
What else can we expect to see from Ben Marwood in 2018? Well, I'm done with touring â€˜Get Foundâ€™ but I do have some one-off shows and festivals to get to during the year. I want to hit 40 shows in support of the album, which is such a tiny amount compared to hard-working bands but I've done OK. Also I'm going to go on two holidays. Personal best!
How did Grayscale originally get together? Collin, Nick, and Dallas had all played in high school bands together. Once those bands ended they started a new project, which ended up being Grayscale down the road. Andrew had filled in for one of those high-school bands at one point and was asked to join the new project and I had toured with Grayscale while I played drums in my hometown band The Directive. Once The Directive ended I was asked to join Grayscale.
What is it like to be a part of the music scene in Philadelphia? The Philly music scene, as well as the city itself, can be seen as pretty tough, but once you start playing basement shows, meeting people and making friends, Philly loses that tough outer exterior and becomes an incredible community. We love it here. Go Birds.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you wanted to make a career out of music? For me personally, I was probably about 13 when my kid best friend Markie would come over and we would jam, him on the guitar and myself on the drums. We played a teenage backyard party in like 2003 or 2004 and everyone hated us! I think just writing music and then playing something you wrote was and is the best feeling and that really made me want to make music my career
Interview with Nick
How did you end up signing with Fearless Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? Two years ago we were in the studio writing and working on some new material. Fearless received word of this and called us up just to see what we were up to. The more and more we talked, the more and more working together seemed to make sense. They have been amazing to work with and we love everyone over at that office.
How did your recent UK tour go with As It Is, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road with them? That tour was unbelievable for all of us. As It Is are some of our best friends and being able to experience that with them was outrageous. We had quite a few highlights on this tour to be honest, the fans, the travel and sightseeing, the shows themself and just moments on the bus. The fans overseas are some of the sweetest people on earth. We received so many gifts and so much love from them, it was wild. The last show of the tour was in London and was sold out with 1,400 people which was probably the biggest highlight. There are honestly too many to cover.
Looking back on 'Adornment', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Grayscale? I think for us it was a perfect representation of us at the time. We all have different influences and musical backgrounds and those various influences show in the different dynamics of the record. We love this record, to us it’s our baby. We may have been around for a while but this record is really our true introduction to everyone. We couldn’t have asked for a better start with our team that we have behind us and the love and support from everyone has been unreal.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Adornment' at the moment, and why? ‘Let It Rain’ and ‘Fever Dream’ are definitely a couple of the band favourites. ‘Echoes’ is another one we love just because of the fast pace it has. The high energy songs seem to be our favourite just because it makes us want to smash up our equipment! Ha.
Have you started work on any new material just yet, if so, what can we expect from it? We are constantly working on new music and writing. We definitely have some things cooking and you can expect it to rock.
What was it like to cover 'Love Yourself', and how did you go about bringing the Grayscale approach to it? The beautiful thing about that song was that it’s so stripped down already, we just had to make it our own. Biebs’ original was obviously one of the biggest pop songs when it was released so we got lucky when we picked that song and were actually able to cover it. I think our director Jordan Mizrahi had a huge part in making it our own as well with the music video we did for it.
How excited are you to be taking on the final Warped Tour, and why do you think it's become so iconic over the years? It’s most definitely a dream and one of our biggest moments as a band. It’s bittersweet to be apart of the last warped tour because Kevin Lyman created a beautiful thing that started in the early 90s and to see it end is sad. On the flip side, we are so excited and honoured to be a part of this festival that shaped so many kids and bands that are on the tour this year and years past.
What else can we expect to see from Grayscale in 2018? More rocking.
Interview with Neal
Touring wise, what you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We started the year in Germany which is always fun. Swiftly followed by a UK run with our friends in Sonic Boom Six, that was great as we played a lot of independent venues we’ve never been to and met some awesome people supporting the independent scene. So I think we will definitely return to those, that gave us a bit of a lift as we thought we were in an age where those venues are being shut down, but there are still places thriving and that’s great to know.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Watching The World Come Undone', and what does it mean to you? The title was born from a line for the song ‘The Aftermath’. From the first song there was a vibe to what we were writing and it was just before Brexit, before Trump and around the new alt-right creeping its way in. But all those things happened whilst writing by chance. This album is about as close to a concept album as we would go in that we were on the same page from day one, even the working titles were given names to fit the vibe so everyone is in the same frame of mind. It’s about human nature in as much as the politics surrounding it, and why we are ultimately hell bent on self-destruction.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Watching The World Come Undone'? Yeah take the song ‘The Awakening’ for example, that was specifically around the whole Brexit event, but it’s more about the effects of these events, whether you voted for or not isn’t the point, it was how horrific politicians and press all behaved on both sides, and it seems there has been an awakening where people who didn’t pay attention before are now sick of the lies and bullshit Westminster tries to force down our throats and that can only be a good thing. But what was important to us was the songs had to work as songs as well as have meanings, because not everyone wants to go that deep, and ‘The Awakening’ at its core is a fast, melodic anthemic three minute singalong designed for live punk rock pits, it just happens to have more to it if you want to look, if not that’s cool too.
When you look back on the album, what song was the most challenging for you to put together, and why? The whole thing was challenging in a good way, as we pushed every aspect from initial writing, to pre-producing, then producing with Davey Warsop in the States and our performances, and we wanted all the songs to connect, along with the artwork and the videos so it all aligned, that was really challenging. But I think because it was challenging means the outcome is a higher standard and that was the goal from the standard. Make the best record, and have it be the record that gets referenced when our name is mentioned.
How did the front cover for 'Watching The World Come Undone' come together, and what does it mean to you? A lot of playing about really, we wanted a cover that was eye catching but also had meaning and aligned with the project. The idea of the green forest being nature, and the scalding burnt orange being humans effect on it, the original concept was “Scorched Earth” so I just developed on that. If you look closely the ground in the orange centre is still cracked and scorched. The smouldering cityscape is a concept of Birmingham and LA as the album was made in both places, starting in our hometown and ending in LA.
Who produced the record, and how would you say they helped shape it? Davey Warsop produced the record and he was more than on board from the start. The great thing about Davey was we’ve known him for years from Beat Union days and now his band Sharp/Shock. We’d heard what he’d done as a producer with Bad Cop Bad Cop and Vanishing Life and loved it so had total faith in him. I particularly found it useful having a producer who was a vocalist. We made early demos ourselves in the UK and sent them to him. Then the first week in the states we sat around with guitars and basically tore them apart, and re-assembled them and this really was the most important part of the making of the album. So Davey’s involvement was absolutely integral to the outcome of the album.
What was it like to record at Hurley Studios, and how did it compare to anywhere else you have recorded before? Hurley was fantastic. And it’s bizarre being on the Nike HQ lot. Initially we were only going to track drums there, but everything was flowing and a few things happened that granted us extra time so we eventually did the whole thing there. It was a great experience, literally a few weeks after we left Green Day came in to do some work, so that’s the calibre of artists they have there. We had faith in the material after Davey’s pre-prod sessions and we knew Hurley had awesome gear so once we started tracking it was really stress free as we knew it was going to sound huge.
How would you say the sound on 'Watching The World Come Undone' compares to anything you've done before? It is essentially us but more refined and better. I think if you compare it to our other albums you can hear similarities style wise, but it’s just more focused. With ‘New Horizons’ (the previous album) which we also recorded in California, that was a lot more DIY, I love that record but compare it to WTWCU and you can hear the songs have been constructed, just better.
You've featured on game soundtracks to Colin Mcrae & Dirt. So how did that happen, and how rewarding has that whole experience been for you guys as a band? That is bizarre as we still have people asking about those songs. The first game we wrote especially to be on the soundtrack, the music supervisor asked us if we had a track and that we could be on it if it was good enough, so we quickly wrote one and recorded it ourselves and it got approved and that game went on to sell over a million copies. Mental. We even got to suggest names for the drivers nicknames, to this day you can drive as our tour manager The Gonk. Game soundtracks are awesome for bands like us, look what Tony Hawks did for bands like Millencolin etc.
Hard question time. What band would you say you've learnt the most from by touring with, and why? That is hard. I think we take a bit of something from every band we tour with because every band is different. I think Rise Against blew us away with their humility even though they are undeniably a juggernaut, they came to a small dive show we were playing in Berlin on the day their album went to Number 1 and their only off day of their tour. They said we should play shows together, and sure enough their agent offered us a string of shows. One such show a sold out Mitsubishi-halle in Dusseldorf (7,000 people) they opened the doors early and put us on as late as possible so the venue was entirely full for our set. We’ve been lucky in that we have toured with a lot of bands we like, and have now become friends with them.
What else can we expect to see from Templeton Pek in 2018? A lot of touring everywhere and getting out to territories we haven’t yet been, it’s really exciting that 10 years in we are buzzing more than ever on the future/ There is lots going on in the background that we are scramming to say but would ruin the surprise. But to start it’s going to be great.
Can you tell us about how Dream State originally got together? CJ: Yes, Jamwa, Danny and Aled all met at Download festival 2012, I met Jamwa previously at college where we used to jam together.
How did you get to the band name Dream State, and what does it mean to you? CJ: The name Dream State came from my outlook on reality and how I tend to drift a lot into a dream like kind of state and Iâ€™ve experienced quite vivid dreams and some life altering dreams in the past that have changed the way I perceive the world, I think the unconscious mind is quite fascinating and we all agreed it was a fiiting name for us. The band represents the persona of who we all are. A group a dreamerâ€™s.
What is it like to be a part of the iconic South Wales music scene? Rhys: We grew up listening to bands like Funeral For a Friend and Bullet for my Valentine who were prime examples of how Welsh rock music can have an impact on the world, so we've always had a mantra of "If they can do it, we can do it too!". It's no easy feat though; we're based in a fairly rural part of the country, tucked away from the bigger touring circuits so we have to work really hard to make our mark!
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you wanted to do this as a career? Rhys: Once you pick up an instrument or have your first jam session with friends, it doesn't take long to start wishing for fame and fortune. The hope of doing music as a career has been with me for as long as I can remember! We have to work normal jobs just to keep ourselves afloat and it can be a real strain for any band to keep that balance, but I hope that one day soon we'll be able to make a living out of this. That's the dream!
How did you end up signing to UNFD, and what have they been like to work with so far? Rhys: ‘White Lies’ did so much to help get our name out there and open up talks for a record deal. UNFD felt like the best fit for us because we loved a lot of the bands on their roster and the direction that they were taking. UNFD are fresh, exciting and not afraid to push the boundaries of heavy music. It's early days yet, but the advice and support that they've given us so far has been awesome!
So, how did you get to the EP title 'Recovery', and what does it mean to you? CJ: The lyrics to our tracks have a lot of truth to them and
Interview with CJ and Rhys
we’ve wanted to be as honest as we can to the world about who we are as individuals, we aren’t hiding behind a persona, this is us. The songs touch base on personal struggles with addiction to anxiety and mental health in general then finishing on a positive note ‘New Waves’ which is about where we are at now in our lives, a strong collective, making and riding new waves. The whole process starting from that low point to where we are today has been a recovery process. So we knew it was an appropriate name for the EP.
We've read that "The EP traces vocalist CJ Gilpin’s journey from internal chaos to calm" so can you elaborate on that, and about what we can expect from the lyrical content on 'Recovery'? CJ: Yes, I’ve had issues in the past with addiction, followed by a whirlwind of emotion and depression to remaining strong and pulling myself out of my rut. Again, expect honesty, I know a lot of the subjects I’ve chosen to write about are a reflection of today’s world and about what the majority of the population are experiencing and I feel a lot of people are going to be able to relate to it one way or another. Whether it’s issues with addiction, to feeling trapped and swallowed up to knowing you’ve worked so hard to be where you are at in this moment, alive and in the now and to accepting/realising that the hardest fight you’ll have is with yourself, which I think is the case with most people today.
Why did you reissue 'White Lies', and what was it like to work with Jack Bennett? Rhys: The energy behind ‘White Lies’ over the last year has been insane. Once we'd finished our summer tour along with Reading and Leeds festival, we needed time to recover and focus on new material. The acoustic reissue was our way of thanking all the amazing people who pushed that song and shared the love with their friends and family. Working with Jack was super chill! He went to every length to make sure that we were comfortable and relaxed; the perfect environment to record acoustic tracks!
The song has become extremely well known, reaching over 5 million streams on YouTube alone. When you look at the track, what do you think has made it become so relatable to so many? CJ: Probably the way the song is conveyed, the music is naturally bold and aggressive and I literally sang it as if it was the last time I was ever going to sing and I think people really connected with the emotion behind ‘White Lies’ and the driving force behind it, I think people sense when someone isn’t genuine about a story, and that’s probably why I tend to write as honest as possible, when they know it’s real as well, it hits home more, you can relate to the pain, one way or another someone has suffered, so you get it.
How did the artwork for 'Recovery' come together, and what does it mean to you? CJ: We worked with Audi Brisson a talented individual from France, she worked with us on our previous singles ‘In The Hell’ and ‘New Waves’, which were absolutely stunning representations of the tracks and we wanted to keep the consistency with the art so continued to work with each other for the EP and Aude is so creative, she literally drew out exactly what we had envisioned without much help at all. To us it represents change, the nude woman on the front represents the feminine element to the EP and the snake represents rebirth, transformation, that transition from old to new, good and evil.
How excited are you for your upcoming appearances at Download Festival & 2000 Trees, and what can attending fans expect from your performance? Rhys: Totally stoked! We've camped and partied at both festivals, so they hold a special place in our hearts! I don't want to give away too much, but there will be plenty of new songs and tonnes of raw energy - don't miss out!
What else can we expect to see from Dream State in 2018? Rhys & CJ: As many live shows as we can handle, in as many places as possible with lots of new music!!
Interview with Kevin
You've said that "Westside’ is a song I’ve wanted to write for many years but never knew how" so can you elaborate on that, and the meaning behind this track in particular? I hesitate to elaborate too much because the song is about me dealing with someone else's trauma after sexual assault, it's truly not my story to tell. That being said the perspective in the song is from my own anger and frustration during that time, but realising that it was entirely unproductive and that my number one priority was to show love and compassion for someone in their time of need. It's a delicate subject that I didn't know how to approach until this last year.
In regards to the writing process for 'Petaluma' you said that early on you made a decision to make a record "that felt brighter and more uptempo". So how did that decision come about, and can you tell us about the overall direction of the sound of this record? On our last record ‘Low Tides’ we explored an entirely new sound with darker tones, brooding tempos, and really atmospheric arrangements. Instead of diving deeper into that soundscape, we decided to push it in a new direction and make a focused sound with all organic instruments. Artistically it was just where we were at during the time period we began writing so it came really naturally. You can expect less synthetic rigid arrangements and more human elements in the performances. It's so dope.
If possible, can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Petaluma'? My attention span is far too short to premeditate the entire concept or theme of a record beforehand, I pretty much write songs on a one by one basis and the album itself comes together as a whole in the studio where we glue the songs together using instrumentation and an overall vibe. Lyrically I made an effort to inject some positivity into my songwriting though and that was a breath of fresh air. I think lyrically this record is somewhere in between the person I was and who I intend to be, it's a journal of a work in progress.
What was the hardest track to put together on 'Petaluma', and why? None of them were difficult per se but the song that took the largest transformation in the studio was 'Never Believe'. Originally written as a fingerpicking kind of somber ballad, we decided to introduce a larger arrangement to it as we felt the song lagged a little for the direction we were seeking on the record. We added some beautiful horns and pounding drum cadences to push the song through and it ended up becoming one of my favourites.
How did the painted glass window artwork for 'Petaluma' come together? Thinking of it now, the artwork you see took five people to come to life. Anthony and I discussed the stained glass concept but felt it might be too dark and Catholic if it was done traditionally so we felt like the Sunflower was a great representation of the sonics of the songs we were working on. We enlisted our tattoo artist Jacob Doney to illustrate the sunflower itself, had Jason Link at Epitaph design the layout surrounding it, had a stained glass artisan craft the physical piece, then had our touring member Alex Bemis photograph the finished product itself. From a vision we had in a Travelodge well over a year ago to now, it's been a cool experience seeing it come to life as the album did too. The glass represents the transparency and fragility of the lyrics on ‘Petaluma’, but the sunflower represents my will to seek the sun and its light despite any circumstances.
Looking back on 'Low Tides' how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of This Wild Life? Look, when we made that record we knew it would be a curveball to our fans. First of all, we're an acoustic band that exists within the greater punk community so many of our fans don't hear anything "alternative" (whatever the hell that means these days) or even acoustic except for a deep track on their favourite punk band’s album. The reaction was really mixed and we entirely expected that but we wanted to be fearless in pursuing our vision and the end result is a record that I'm deeply attached to and proud of.
What songs are you still enjoying performing live from 'Low Tides'? ‘Pull Me Out’ and ‘Break Me’ go over incredibly well live because they're the more energetic songs on the record but I really enjoyed playing ‘Just Yesterday’ with the three part harmonies and really brought down bridge. It was such a cool moment during the set to get the entire room quiet for just a few minutes to really hear those lyrics and emotions behind them.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK? Our first sold out show ever was in London, we hadn't even sold out our local venue at home yet so that was such an exciting time. The UK has been great to us - we've headlined more there than we have in the US and the fans are incredible. Feels like a second home and I don't just mean that because we can speak English and communicate with everyone so easily haha. Also late night kebab.
What else can we expect to see from This Wild Life in 2018? We've pushed ourselves to create as much visual material around this album as possible. Every single song will have a video companion, and some songs will have a video as well as a live session. It's been awesome creating these visual elements to coincide with the songs themselves, so make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to experience all ‘Petaluma’ has to offer this year and into the next.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We are just about to head off on the first run of shows for this album cycle, actually. It’s back to the long gnarly roads of the US and Canada, where we always seem to start something new. It’s great to start the next stage of TesseracT amongst the memories that touring North America conjures up for us.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Sonder', and what does it mean to you? ‘Sonder’ is a word coined by poet John Koenig, in his attempt to describe a specific moment of epiphany. That being the realisation that every person, stranger or friend, has a rich and detailed life, as full as your own. That person you don’t even see playing the bit part of sitting in the coffee shop you pass by, is real; and exists in a complete universe in which you, that person passing by the coffee shop in which they are sitting, are but a bit part, too. It’s nothing earth shattering, but it is something we all seem to forget, perhaps.
We've read that 'Sonder' is about "Conceptually exploring a deep and devouring sense of insignificance", so can you elaborate on that, and a bit about what we can expect lyrically from the album? It’s not such a negative theme as it may read, as it’s an experience we all share, really. Small motes of dust clinging on to a slightly larger mass of dust at an unimaginable speed, surrounded by many more motes of dust, in a bizarrely populous yet empty universe. Ha! So, to get back on track, the lyrics do cover a lot of themes of isolation, but also the journey from that point to a far lighter place.
How did the music video for 'King' come together, and if possible, can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? ‘King’ is quite a progressive track even for us! It was quite a task for film makers Kyle Kadow and Steven Cleveland to make a seven minute track not only interesting but to create enough material to fill seven minutes. But, they excelled in their interpretation in my mind. ‘King’ itself has a very strong thread of oppression, and our universal struggle to survive these situations. As with all TesseracT music, it covers a journey, and eventually we reach a moment of euphoria, where musically we escape, and visually we find solace.
What made you want to do an extended and reworked version of 'Smile', and what was that like to put together? ‘Smile’ was always a rushed track which we released to help promote a tour with Megadeth and Meshuggah last summer. It was never completed. I always felt we were going to “jazz” it up a bit for the album, and turn up the energy so to say. Especially after playing the track on tour for a few months. It naturally gravitated towards a very dark and heavy sound, which is something we had actually shied away from for a few years. I guess, however, you really just have to let things happen in the way they want to happen, and ‘Smile’ wanted to be anything but smiley.
Can you tell us about the "binaural/360listening experience" version of 'Sonder', and Interview with Amos maybe how exciting this will be for listeners? We have been talking with a company from Germany called Klang Fabrik, who produce hardware for artists to use in tandem with their monitoring systems. In ear monitors are fantastic things, as they really allow you to hear your performance as if you were in the studio, and help protect you from loud stage volumes. The downside is that they can cut you off from the ambient sound of the venue and the energy of the venue. Klang have developed a system that allows you to recreate a surround sound and thus the vibe of an uninhibited sonic environment, using just your stereo earphones. This led me to consider applying this to the studio. TesseracT always wishes to take what they do in the studio to the stage. Well, this time around I thought it would be cool to take what we do on stage to the studio! It’s a bit like being able to have a surround sound system without the surround sound system, which has always been my issue with extended stereo versions of albums. Not only do you have to buy an additional copy of the album, but you also have to buy a tonne of gear at great expense. Not so with a binaural mix, all you need are headphones. I see this as a work in progress, and one that I wish to develop more in the future, as TesseracT is the sort of band that should be exploring and experimenting not just with music but with technology, too.
How did the artwork for 'Sonder' come together, and what was it like to work on? I, found it very difficult to work with myself. I always do. I’m a pretty harsh self critic, and I’m never happy with anything I create. The artwork for ‘Sonder’ is an attempt to reduce all and everything we are into an image or icon that can be captured in the blink of an eye; like the complete universe that exists in the person you sat next to on the bus today, or said sorry to when you bumped into them by accident. The interior artwork is a slightly more literal attempt to tell a short story about a journey of discovery.
How did you end up working with Aiden O’Brien, and what did you enjoy the most about collaborating with him? Aidan has been our live sound engineer / live producer for quite some years. He is a very talented and creative sound designer, and this time around we chose to take some of the chemistry we have as friends to the studio and work together from very early on in the writing process. I think the most exciting bit was the new soundscapes that working with Aidan and his speciality afforded us.
How would you say the sound of TesseracT compares on 'Sonder' to anything else you guys have done before? It’s definitely much darker and monstrous. Which is probably more akin to how we sound at a concert.
Looking back on 'Polaris', how happy are you with the album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of TesseracT? ‘Polaris’ is a great example of the experimental element of TesseracT. We attempted to create a book with clearly defined chapters instead of a long-interweaved epic of nine minute sequences. I love it, especially the more unique elements of it like ‘Hexes’ and ‘Seven Names’ where we sit within a more traditional song structure, but still disappear off a cliff towards something new.
What songs are you still enjoying performing live from 'Polaris' at the moment, and why? ‘Hexes’ is fun, I’ve enjoyed it when we were able to perform with Martin Grech who featured alongside Dan as a guest vocalist. It always seems to strike a chord with the crowd, too. There is a powerful energy and sense of enthusiasm that fills me when we perform ‘Survival’. That chorus is very uplifting.
How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Download Festival (Madrid) and what can attending fans expect? We haven’t performed much in Spain, which is a great pity as I really enjoy visiting there. The place is vibrant, and the food is fantastic! These things are really very important. Download Madrid looks to be an exciting festival and if it is anything like the French and English version of the Download brand, I just know we are going to experience a wonderful event.
What else can we expect to see from TesseracT in 2018? 2018 is BUSY! Lots of summer festivals in Europe, an Australian tour, a European tour with Between The Buried and Me, and if we manage to pull it off and get the correct permissions we’ll be filming a Bluray later in the year.
Interview with Carl a
So, how did Kaan Tasan end up joining the band, and what has he been like to work with so far? Carl: I’ve known Kaan for a long time. We first met back in 2008 when our old bands played a couple of shows together. Kaan has also worked with HOAC a lot over the past few years so we all got to know each other really well. When we started auditioning for a new vocalist, Kaan sent me a number of auditions and they were killer! After we heard these, we all knew it was a no brainer to invite him to join the band. It’s been great working together so far, we just can’t wait to get back out on the road!
In regards to 'Collapse' you've said that "This new chapter has rekindled our love for the band and writing music together" so can you elaborate on how the creative process to this track compared to anything you've done before? Carl: After everything the band went through over the past eighteen months, writing anything new became really difficult. I think we all just needed a few months away from writing to make sure our focus was on getting the right person in to front the band. Since Kaan has joined, his drive and energy has given the rest of us the boost we needed and has completely reenergised our creative output. We work alot more collaboratively now and are pushing ourselves to bring something new to our sound.
How did the initial vision for 'Collapse' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? Kaan: ‘Collapse’ lyrically is about the world’s apathy towards our natural habitat and the resources it provides. We’re at a tipping point with all the mega industry, over farming, mass over population and wasting of natural resources, that it isn't sustainable. The basic idea is that the future of the planet has been sold away for short term financial gains. We’re all guilty of focusing on mundane day to day things as we carry on consuming, which is only going to lead to some sort of collapse in the future.
So you recently did a remaster of 'Hope And Hindrance'. So how did that original idea come together, and what was it like for you to work on? Carl: This year we are celebrating five years since we released H&H and we felt that the album needed to be celebrated. Whilst we were focusing on finding our new vocalist, we wanted to release something to let people know we were still alive and this seemed like the perfect thing to do. We self-released H&H back in 2012 which gave us the freedom to do this re-master and re-release however we wanted to do it and we worked closely with our friends at Basik Records to make it happen.
Looking back on 'Hope And Hindrance' what do you remember the most about putting it together? Carl: It seems like a long time ago now! I remember it took us a long time to put it together. Some of the tracks on that record were a good couple of years old by the time we released it. It was a lot of fun writing and recording it though. It felt a lot more DIY than ‘Severance’ and ‘Deliverance’.
Also, how would you say it still compares to anything else you've done? Carl: I love that record because it’s where we all started. It’s always interesting listening back and comparing those songs to the stuff we are writing now. Some of the tracks on H&H like ‘Shade’ and ‘Nightmare’ are still in our set now. We just love playing them!
Looking back on 'Deliverance'. How happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Heart of a Coward? Carl: Personally, ‘Deliverance’ is my favourite record we have released so far. We really pushed ourselves creatively and focused more on our song writing and structuring to make sure the album flowed. It was also the first time we worked with Justin Hill on an end-to-end record. He really pushed us to get the best out of our sound and he did an amazing job on the production, mixing and mastering! I think it helped us move away from the whole “Djent/Tech” genre and allowed us to show that we were a metal band with our own sound.
What songs are you still enjoying performing live from 'Deliverance' at the moment, and why? Carl: To be honest, we love playing the whole record! However, stand out tracks for me are ‘Hollow’, ‘Miscreation’ and ‘Turmoil 1’. They always seem to go down really well!
Have you guys started work on anymore new music just yet? If so, what can we expect from it? Carl: Yes, we have, and we canâ€™t wait to release more! Our focus at the moment is making this the best record we have ever released.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Carl: We canâ€™t wait! These will be the first shows we have played in over 18 months so we are all really excited to get back on stage.
Kaan: - Yeah as Carl said, we're all buzzing to play these shows!! Fans can expect the usual. A ruthlessly aggressive set with all the HOAC classics in.
What else can we expect to see from Heart of a Coward in 2018? Kaan: We've got a handful of festivals over the summer and a EU run with Caliban, but our main focus is to finish up the album
Interview with JT Woodruff
So how did you end up signing to Pure Noise Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? We’ve always been fans and friends of a lot of the bands on the label, so we’ve been around Jake a few times in casual conversation. I was impressed with some of his opinions on the music industry and enjoyed his demeanor in those discussions. They do a great job for their bands, and have been incredibly easy to work with. Awesome staff.
A nice generic question now then. How did you get to the album title 'Bad Frequencies' and what does it mean to you? I was looking through some notes and lyrics I had written in my notebook for new material, and came across a few lines that I had written while being trapped on the highway during Los Angeles rush hour traffic. I started thinking that most of your life is divided into good and bad times, and there are certain situations that can create a ripple effect that sends you down negative trends. I started to think of all the negative times as just small portions of white noise, bad frequencies. I don’t concentrate on those tiny portions of life that are negative. I just tune them out.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Bad Frequencies'? I would say the main theme is that how special the summers of your youth had been while growing up. Some of the best times of my life were set to music, with the backdrop of the sun going down, just hanging with my friends. As you get older, life seems to get busy and wind you up, this album is meant to unwind you. It’s meant to allow you to think back about the past, while moving forward. People tend to get weighed down by negative baggage, when really, they should leave it all behind. ‘Bad Frequencies’ was written to help leave it all behind, and to regain the power of your youth.
We read that "We wrote 'Bad Frequencies' over the course of a year, which was our longest writing process as a band" so can you tell us about that time, and how putting this record together compares to anything you've done before? We spend so much time on the road, that sometimes it’s hard to stop and take a breath. You wake up one day, and you haven’t released a new album in five years. That’s kind of the crazy life we live as musicians. This process was all about slowing everything down, and writing through a bunch of different sessions during our off time. We took inspirations, and tried to capture them in a bottle, and write them down before they faded away. When we were ready to finally track the album, it all came easy.
How did you end up working with Nick Ingram once more? Since we were on tour for most of 2017, we wanted to track the album close to home. Nick Ingram has a studio in Columbus, Ohio which is only an hour away from where we live. It made driving to track the songs pretty manageable. Nick has a great ear and personality, which made the entire process very fast. He edits while we track, so that way we know exactly what we have, and when it’s time to move on. He has a great ear for tone, and has a good handle on harmonies as well. We always have a good time with him.
What was the most challenging song on 'Bad Frequencies' to put together, and why? I would say the most challenging was probably ‘PILLS’. As a rock band, we are always hesitant to slow the tempo down too much, and create slow songs. When writing ‘PILLS’ we wanted it to be within the ballad realm, without feeling like a ballad. We wanted it to retain that power, while not feeling slow. The guitar tone was a little challenging because we wanted it to sound somewhere between uneasy, sad, and triumphant. We backed the gain down, and just used a slight overdrive on the clean channel, which gave us the power we were looking for.
How did the artwork for 'Bad Frequencies' come together? The artwork was a fun process. It was pretty much a collaboration of a graphic designer we like named Kevin Moore, and one of our friends who takes great road photography, Adam Fields. When sifting through the photos, I was looking for something that encapsulated the edge of summer. I wanted something that was taken in the desert, because I love how open and desolate it can be. We wanted the shots to have this beauty that was desperate.
Looking back on 'Zero' how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Hawthorne Heights? That was a fun album to make. We really spread our wings with reaching for a balance between concept and songs during that process. I am totally happy with the way everything turned out, I just wish we could have spent a little more time on the road supporting it. It kind of came out in the middle of starting our ten year anniversary for our first album, and got lost in the shuffle a little bit. We keep trying to add a few songs into the set, to give them the attention that they deserve.
It's been ten years since the release of 'Fragile Future'! So, looking back. What do you remember the most about putting this record together? That was a dark time for us, because we were trying to figure out how to move forward after the passing of our friend Casey Calvert. The writing sessions were extremely cathartic and therapeutic at times. When writing lyrics, I tried to use real life instances of how wonderful that friendship was. It’s an experience that I will remember forever, because it truly made us stronger.
What else can we expect to see from Hawthorne Heights in 2018? We are on our longest tour ever right now, just traveling to as many places as possible to show the world what ‘Bad Frequencies’ is about. So our fall and winter are entirely filled up supporting some great bands that we are excited about. Pretty much the next 2 years are going to be all about ‘Bad Frequencies’, and how many places we can take these new songs.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We haven’t done a ton of touring yet, we went out with Of Mice & Men and now we’re on the road with Asking Alexandria and Black Veil Brides. AA are some really close friends of ours so I’m sure there are going to be some good stories when this tour is over.
So how did the album title for 'Hard Feelings' come together, and what does it mean to you? It sort of just came to me as I was listening back to the songs we had finished thus far. I was just letting everything soak in and realising how deep and personal the lyrics were. So the title just came spontaneously.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Hard Feelings'? It deals with lost love, with fear, with having to leave your family and the mental toll that takes on you, with a bit of self doubt and depression, with a bit of anger resentment for a label that seemed to have turned their backs on us. So it deals with a lot. While the songs are very personal I think anyone can find a way to relate.
How did you end up working with Tyler Smyth, and how would you say he helped shape the album? We’ve been friends with Tyler for years now. We heard he had produced a Falling In Reverse album. So we checked it out. It sounded amazing so we decided to record a couple songs with him. Needless to say the experience was a blast and the songs came together so well we decided we needed to do the whole album with him.
Matt Good and Howard Benson joined you for the producing as well. So how did that happen, and what do you think they brought to the process? Matt Good was there for sort of the pre-production of the music. I wasn’t there for that but Elliott and Eric basically wanted a second ear on the instrumentals they had written. So Matt would track them and give his opinion. With Howard we actually just wrote ‘Sleepless in Phoenix’ with his team. It was a cool experience getting Howard’s ear and opinions on the vocals. He’s worked with some amazing vocalists in his career so it was just sort of a novelty experience.
You've said that with this new album and new signing you feel like you're "brand new again". So can you elaborate on why you think that is, and maybe how putting this record together has compared to anything you've done before? Yeah we truly felt like we were getting a fresh start at our careers. We had been with our old label since the beginning so we didn’t know any different. When we started working with Rise they made us feel special. They made us feel like we were a commodity. They have a great team over there and they work really hard to develop their artists.
You've said that 'Sleepless In Phoenix' is "one of the coolest videos" you've made. So why do you think that Interview with Beau is, and can you tell us a bit about how it all came together? We were recommended Dan Fusselman as a director and we loved his previous work. Him and I worked on a treatment together. I had an idea of someone walking around everywhere with a television. Sort of like a one shot video. He loved the idea and suggested the idea of us playing on the TV and being stuck inside of it. It’s just such a creative video because you essentially get 2 videos in 1. You have the performance and the narrative happening at the same time.
How excited are you for your upcoming slot at Download Festival, and what can attending fans expect? I’m pretty nervous actually! The last time we played the crowd was massive and we had some technical shit go wrong. So I’m just hoping we play a smooth set and hopefully gain some new fans! We love the UK and we really want to make it a second home for us.
What else can we expect to see from Blessthefall in 2018? More touring! We’re currently trying to plan our next headliner. I’m super excited to play more songs off ‘Hard Feelings’!
Interview with Tyler
So how did you get to the album title 'Living Proof', and what does it mean to you? I was listening back to the songs with naming the record in mind and Derek has a lyric that goes “Let’s cut through the static and be the living proof.” It just really resonated in me. There’s so much noise in the world and in our lives. There’s so much that weighs on us. The general idea behind ‘Living Proof’ is that we need to block out that noise or rise above it or however you want to phrase it and be our best selves. Be the ‘Living Proof’ that you survived the struggle.
In regards to the lyrics, you've said that 'Living Proof' has a lot to do with "finding the independence within you". So if possible, can you elaborate on that, and maybe what else we can expect from the lyrical approach on the album? I’m not so sure independence is the word I’d use but it has a lot to do with redefining yourself, and realigning your priorities. Almost a rediscovery of ones self. Other themes include heartbreak, dispelling toxicity, and overcoming self doubt.
We've read that 'Living Proof' will be your "most ambitious and cohesive work" yet. So can you elaborate on that, and maybe how the creative process for it compares to anything you've done before? The creative process for ‘Living Proof’ left no stone unturned. We tried anything and everything and took our sweet time doing so. We didn’t feel any pressure. We felt free to create and at our own pace and I think that was crucial to maximizing the vibes and creating this record. Other records have always felt rushed or we felt pressured to make songs a certain way. We took this as an opportunity to make songs sound how WE wanted them to and not how we thought people wanted them to sound.
What was it like to work with John Feldmann? Feldy was a pleasure to work with. He’s really great at writing songs but beyond that he emphasized the importance of mindfulness and gratitude. You feel lighter in his presence. He also has a way of really pulling good performances out of you. Whether that’s lyric writing or instrumentation.
You also worked with Mike Green and Kyle Black. So how did that happen once more, and what did you find the most rewarding about working with them? We loved working with both Kyle and Mike on separate occasions and they both have a good history working together so we figured we’d get them both in the room and see what came out of it. The result was pretty tiiiight.
We must ask, what made you want to split the recording process in two, and what do you think it brought to the structure of the album? It was actually split into thirds. We did a third with Feldmann, a third with Green and Black, and a third just the five of us. I think it brings great depth to the album. It provides the listener with a variety of flavours to choose from.
How did you end up collaborating with Mark Hoppus and Alex Gaskarth, and can you tell us a bit about what they were both like to work with? We did a tour with All Time Low back in 2015 and became quick friends with the band. It was always something we had talked about - writing songs together. We did ‘Slow Burn’ and ‘Hurry Up and Wait’ with him for the deluxe edition of ATWAB and loved it so we asked if he wanted to be a part of ‘Living Proof’! Alex is awesome to work with because it’s just like working with your friend. Super casual and laid back. At the end of day 1 with Feldmann, he asked us if it was okay if his friend Mark came in tomorrow. We said “yes.” He never said Hoppus. What a shocker that was! Mark was also awesome to work with. He’s a very funny guy. Also REALLY GOOD AT WRITING MUSIC.
How did the music video idea for 'Dead And Gone' come together, and what was it like to work with Chris Fleck Hernandez? It was a refreshing experience to work with Chris Fleck. He was already a fan of the band which makes us even more excited about his passion and work ethic as we were filming the ‘Dead and Gone’ video. He initially came up with the idea and treatment for this one and we rolled with it and added to it as we went on. Although I will say, all those performance takes in the warehouse really wore us out. I was so sore afterwards. It was all worth it though.
How did the front cover for 'Living Proof come together, and what does it mean to you? We stumbled across Dewey Saunders (who designed the album art) on instagram actually. His style is very unique with the way he puts together digital collages from all different resources. We let him listen to the record early and wanted him to incorporate imagery from all the tracks on the album and we’re very stoked on the end result.
What was the most challenging song from 'Living Proof' to put together, and why? I would say ‘Time Machine’. It’s the most outside of the box song for us as a band. It was the second of two songs we wrote with Mark Hoppus. The idea was to tell a story about losing someone and not being there at the time to save them. We took a much darker approach using one looped drum effect throughout the whole song and spent a lot of time on the general direction and chord progressions.
Looking back on 'Around the World and Back' how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of State Champs? I truly think this is our best album yet. Especially as a body of work listening from beginning to end. Without a doubt this is our longest record in full with the most time spent creating it. Sure, there was pressure after ATWAB having as much success as it did, but we tried not to think about that much. We didn’t stray too far from our roots, but had enough resources to push ourselves and take everything to a new level sonically. Whether you like the old stuff, the newer stuff, or are looking for something new and refreshing, ‘Living Proof’ will breathe new life into the Champs realm.
What else can we expect to see from State Champs in 2018? We’ve got a packed and stacked year of touring and cool events happening all year long. From festivals, to in-store acoustic sessions, to rooftop album release parties, to supporting Fall Out Boy on their US arena tour in the fall, we have nothing but unparalleled excitement for the rest of the year. Beyond that, expect the ‘Living Proof’ Headline Tour to hit your city sometime between the end of 2018 to mid 2019.
So we must ask, how did you end up signing to Rise Records, and how does their approach compare to any other label you've worked with so far? Before we signed to Rise Records, we were on Fearless Records, and had been with Fearless for a long time. We love all the guys there, and they have done great work on our past albums. When discussion of this album came up, they were in the middle of going through a merge with another company, and had a lot on their plate. We wanted to make sure for us, that we wouldn't get lost in shuffle, so decided to look around for other options with this record. Rise approached us, and seemed to have all the answers we were looking for. They have had a lot of success marketing outside of the scene, and to a diverse audience which is something we were looking for. It has been very easy working with them, and they seem to be all hands on deck with the album, which is great.
You guys did a 'Lesson in Romantics' tour in the UK. So how did that go, and what was it like to revisit that time with your fans here? That tour was one of the most gratifying tours we have done. It's really fulfilling to go on stage and have everyone singing along to songs that are over ten years old at this point. It makes you take a step back and really appreciate how far you have come, and how much your music means to the people in the room.
Were there any tracks that you found particularly rewarding to re-visit when you started to rehearse for the tour that you maybe hadn't played in a while? â€˜Take This To Heartâ€™ is a song that I had a lot of fun playing that we don't usually play. There's a lot of energy in that song that comes out playing it live, and it was something I looked forward to in our set.
Interview with Jeremy Looking back on the album, what do you remember the most about putting it together, and why do you think it still stands out to this day? I remember we all had an overwhelming sense of excitement. This was our first record and we didn't have anything to live up to, we just wanted to record something we enjoyed and have fun doing it. Zach Odom and Kenneth Mount, our producers, always brought a lot of life to the studio, they made the whole process easy and enjoyable. I remember Ed Roland of Collective Soul buying us all Thai food, he was recording upstairs in the studio. At the time we had six members in the band, and I remember we all slept in one hotel room and how bad it stunk by the end of it. There are a lot of memories that come back the more I think on it. As for why the album still stands today, I think it’s a collection of things. The songs are good, we had two vocalists at that time, it was our first record so we had forever to prepare, it was the first thing people heard by us which is something people normally remember fondly. I don't think there really is a definitive answer.
Looking back on 'Black Lines', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Mayday Parade? I’m very happy with ‘Black Lines’. I know it was a departure from the Mayday Parade sound people were used to, but I think it's important as an artist to expand musically and try new things. At some point you have to switch things up or risk becoming stagnant.
What do you think you'll take from the creative process of 'Black Lines' going forward as musicians? One of the big take aways is that it’s very easy to overthink things. Sometimes you just have to turn off your brain and go with your gut. I also think we have become more creative in our approach to things since doing ‘Black Lines’.
Leading on from that, what can fans expect from your upcoming album ‘Sunnyland’? I guess they can expect an album that is more of a return to the old Mayday sound, while still keeping the creativity that came from ‘Black Lines’.
How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Download Festival, and what can attending fans expect? I’m very excited for Download Festival! We haven't picked the setlist yet, but I'm sure it will be filled with all the classics. As far as what to expect, fans can expect us to bring the normal high energy we try and bring to every show.
You are also taking on Warped Tour for the last time this year, so how excited are you for that, and why do you personally think it's become so iconic over the years? I'm happy that we will be able to do the last Warped Tour, but sad that it will be the last one. Warped Tour has always been a huge part of who we are, and something we get excited for. I think it has been iconic because there is nothing like it in the states. It is the only traveling festival with such a wide variety of acts that we have in the states, and something people have looked forward to every summer for a long time.
What else can we expect to see from Mayday Parade in 2018? Other than what we discussed, probably just a lot of touring to support the new album. Nothing is finalised yet, but we expect to be on the road for awhile after the album comes out.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We toured extensively in 2017, so we had 2018 off, that gave us time to fully recharge the batteries, and now we feel like lions in a cage - we can't wait to go back on the road this summer! Personal highlights...it's hard to point at one show in particular. The whole tour has been very successful, from Australia to Russia to UK to Japan to North America. I have a very positive feeling when I think of the tour as the whole and that's great!
How would you say your live performance has changed/progressed over the years as Dragonforce? I think we are way more focused. We used to be just all about fun and drinking and jumping and musically were suffering from it. Now everything is more...professional. Doesn't mean itâ€™s not fun-we dont really rehearse stage moves as we think itâ€™s better to let things happen spontaneously. We also play better. So yeah, it has definitely improved over the years!
Looking back on 'Reaching into Infinity', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Dragonforce? Personally, very happy. I wrote 80% of the album, so it means a lot to me that people dig it. ‘Maximum Overload’ and ‘Reaching’ showed people that Dragonforce is not a "one-trick pony". We've incorporated diversity in our music, and not all the songs are 200bpm. Lyric wise it improved as well, and I think it pays off. We have young kids and diehard metal heads at our shows and that’s a good sign if you can be relevent to both.
Also, what songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Reaching into Infinity' right now, and why? I was particularly happy to play ‘The Edge of The World’ live because it’s a long, epic song that really stands out, and it works perfectly live. The crowds reactions have always been amazing for this one and I’m proud of it.
When you look back on the recording process for 'Reaching into Infinity' what track did you find the most challenging to put together, and why?
Interview with Frederic
I’ve said it in previous interviews, I don’t like recording accoustic guitar. So any song with accoustic parts were a bit of a pain in the butt for me, but other than that, you would think that ‘The Edge..’ would be the most challenging, seeing as it's long, has a lot of different parts and vibes, but it all came naturally. I recall spending more time on ‘Our Final Stand’ or the ballad, ‘Silence’. But to be honest, we give the same amount of attention to each song. It's like children: you got to love them equally.
What was it like to record with Gee Anzalone for the first time, and what did he bring to 'Reaching into Infinity'? It was great, Gee is a fantastic drummer and everything went smoothly-and faster than we thought. He understands perfectly how drums are supposed to be in Dragonforce, and he loves when it's fast, challenging and extreme. He brought a lot of energy and I think people can hear that.
So how did the idea for 'Re-Powered Within' come about? The original one came in a strange time for us, some labels we were working with, and a few things didn’t go like we wanted. The opportunity to remix it came up, and we jumped on it, and thought we might as well give it a fresh cover artwork, too!
Were there any tracks from the album that you found particularly rewarding to revisit/hear once 'Re-Powered Within' had been put together? The whole album actually! It’s interesting to hear someone else's take on your work, it makes you pay attention to little details you forgot about, or things that were buried in the mix.
How excited are you for your upcoming performance on the main stage at Download Festival, and what can attending fans expect? Very excited! It will be our 2nd show of the year, and it will be our...I’m not sure actually, 6th time at Download!? Expect a lot of energy, and a lot of fun.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? Well, talking about Download, I remember we had the crowd doing a slow motion circle pit during a ballad, that was pretty fun! It's always cool to play in the UK, people totally get our sense of humour, we interact and joke more with them on stage. I remember a show at the Astoria, I used to ask someone in the crowd for a cigarette, and would get a few thrown at me. We asked if we should ask for money as well and got a lot of one pound coins thrown at us! That was fun, we used them to buy drinks, hahaha!
It's been ten years since the release of 'Ultra Beatdown'. Looking back on that record, what do you remember the most about putting it together, and how would you say it still compares to your other albums? It was my first recording with the band and I remember hating their way of working! (It has changed since, thank god). It's a strange album because it was following the success of ‘Inhuman Rampage’ - we had toured a lot for it and some people thought we had to do more of everything: faster, more guitars, more keyboards, more silly sounds. It was one way of seeing it, not mine. It has some good songs but that is definitely not my favourite in our discography.
What else can we expect to see from Dragonforce in 2018? We are doing summer festivals, and then it’s time to think about the next album. I already have some ideas, some riffs. I also have a new album coming out with Sinsaenum in August, and we're going on tour in the fall. So yeah, 2018 will be a busy year for me!
Interview with Lajon
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were going to be more than just an upcoming band? Wow, Woodstock 2009 maybe. When we hit the road I just felt it in my bones, when we left home and didn’t come back for a year, I was like maybe we might be doing something really good. I still pinch myself at times, I can’t believe we are still relevant in the music industry, as frugal as it is. It’s something we could never take for granted. I love being around, I love being here still.
What has it been like to be back on the road once more, whilst also performing one of your new tracks 'Dirty' live for the first time? It’s great and exciting, it’s a different energy as it’s the new feeling again so we can’t wait and I feel that angst in the crowd too. That blends for a good show and a good tour. The nights have been great, the response has been incredible, there has been a lot of love and happiness and that’s what it is all about. I hope we bring that to everyone.
So how did you get to the album title 'All I See Is War', and what does it mean to you? Well it was strong, and at the end of the album we looked back and we noticed that we said the word “war” several times. On the artwork you see these kids playing that are like innocent but behind them is the fire. I feel like with the song ‘Dirty’ it kind of goes into war. I wrote that song and it could have been about a young man or woman going off to war, it could have been a grandma getting on the bus going to work or going to see her grandkids, and you know I just think it is all around us. It’s not necessarily bombs but it’s a war of words, people fighting, cops and everything around, all I see is war, not to be political but a play on words.
We've read that Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette is a long-time fan of the band. How did you end up working with Michael, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Everyone calls him Elvis because he kind of looks like him to. We have been friends for a while and we had been saying we need to do an album together. We finally got the opportunity to do this, and not only is he a friend, he is a brother, he is like family for us. He let us stay at his home, and his place was amazing. It’s a beautiful house and the studio was themed like a haunted mansion, so when you go in it’s like a different world, like over the top gothic and gold furniture that you would never see anywhere, it just made it exciting and different. It wasn’t a normal studio, it was an experience. I can think about looking at the velvet walls which had this really cool pattern but if you looked closely they were nothing but skulls. You had to look real close and it was something different to look at everyday. Elvis and Jeff just made it a great experience to work with them.
For this record you wrote between 50 and 60 songs. Which is more than what you would normally do. So can you tell us a bit about that, and how the creative process for 'All I See Is War' compared to anything you've done before? Well we had some time out, everyone had a year or so to come up with ideas and it made it a lot easier to go into the studio with that much material. We were conscious of the time we were taking off but there was no pressure as far as the writing process came, it was just what you felt and I think that is what made this album even better. As we had that time away, time to be Dads and go back in with fresh heads and to be excited about it. It wouldn’t have been as exciting if we hadn’t brought Elvis along with us, it just makes for a whole different air about it.
You've said that with this album "we weren’t afraid to show different sides of Sevendust", so can you elaborate on how that approach came about? Well if you think about how we rolled this out, we had ‘Dirty’ as the first single and then ‘Not Original’, it shows that the band is not afraid to show all the sides of us and I think that shows a good reputation of what we are aiming to do. A song like ‘Not Original’ to me is a deep great song at the end of the day, it’s maybe one of the more original songs.
What song did you find the most challenging to put together on 'All I See Is War', and why? Maybe ‘Medicated’ was because it was at the very end and John and I were just the last in the studio doing that song. I don’t know if it was challenging, it’s just that it was the last song. I’m not saying I didn’t want to go home but it was time to be done. Every day I enjoyed singing and working in the studio with Jeff, it was just great, but yeah ‘Medicated’ might have been it as it was the very last song.
Michael "Elvis" "really challenged you as a vocalist" on this record, so can you tell us about that, and how you think you've grown as a singer since the release of 'Kill the Flaw'? Elvis let me be me, it was cool to work with him as he is not only a guitar player and a writer, he is a singer also so he has great ideas and it was fun to feed off each other. He blew me away when he said it was incredible to work with me as a vocalist. There was a lot of respect, it was a really cool working relationship and for me I can’t wait to work with him again.
How did the somewhat futuristic music video for 'Dirty' come together, and can you tell us about the meaning that runs through this track in particular? ‘Dirty’ was one of the first songs that we wrote, it was awesome and our team picked that as one of the first singles so we knew that something good was going on there at the beginning of this process. We flew into LA and did the video, it was cool. We did it where they filmed one of the Batman movies, that was neat. It was a few long days of doing videos and we have a surprise coming up that people don’t know about, but that goes along with Rise Records that was something they were strong about. It was exciting for us as we aren’t those kind of guys who want to do videos but this was fun.
Looking back on 'Kill the Flaw', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Sevendust? It was great, it was fun and then all of a sudden to be nominated for a Grammy, like oh my God, that was amazing. Hopefully we have our foot in the door to have a chance to get this album nominated for something, that would be great. For me, growing up as a kid, that was something I watched - The Grammys. I mean wow and to be a part of it when there has only been like 60 or something is crazy. I brought my family, I was sat three rows away from Stevie Wonder, it was really cool and I hope that will happen again. ‘Kill The Flaw’ was fun but it’s time to move on and I hope that with ‘All I See Is War’ we get to do a lot. I’m really proud of this album.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Kill the Flaw' at the moment, and why? Well ‘Thank You’, not just because it was nominated for a Grammy but it was a true testament of how we feel about our fans that have grown up with us. I’m 45 years old and I see that 21 year old kid that was 21 as the same time as me coming out to our shows and he might have five kids, and now a couple of his kids have kids and they are all at the Sevendust show, that’s amazing, I feel so lucky and honoured to be a part of that and I feel like I have to be some kind of ambassador of good will and have a damn good time. Let’s not think about the bills and the stress at home when we are at the Sevendust show, we are going to have a good time and good energy because that’s what takes us away from all of our craziness in this world.
It's been ten years since the release of 'Chapter VII: Hope & Sorrow', what do you remember the most about putting this album together, and how would you say it still compares to anything else you've done? It was a little bit of a different time for us, we were still growing. I feel like we have grown so much since then. I think we learned to become businessmen in the music industry. You need to have a business mind and keep true to your art whilst knowing about what is going on. There are so many crazy people out there, that try and get their hands in your pockets while you’re just trying to live the dream. At the end of the day you have got to be smart about it.
What else can we expect to see from Sevendust in 2018? Touring this album, and hopefully getting back over to you all sooner than later as I definitely think that is going to be happening. Just to have a good time and get back on the road, that break was great but this is where it is at, to be with the people and feel each other and hug each other, talk, pray together and that’s what we are doing. I can’t wait to do more of that.
How happy have you been with the response to ‘The Stories We Tell Ourselves’ so far, and what do you think it’s done for the representation of Nothing More? Honestly, I think it’s gotten a pretty good reception. I think the three Grammy nominations were a big signpost for us for how it was doing out there. In my mind I’m always looking for ways that I can do better, so I don’t think it’s ever quite good enough ‘cause I’m always looking for how we can reach more people and that. I still think there’s a lot of people out there that we could reach with this record, songs like ‘Just Say When’, ‘Still In Love’ and ‘Fade In Fade Out’ are songs that reach beyond our genre. They’re just songs. They’re more human than they are rock. I’ve been happy with the progress so far but I still have much higher hopes for it.
To be nominated for three Grammy’s is insane considering a few years ago you had to do an album by a Kickstarter campaign. That’s got to be so crazy to go from one extreme to the other. Yeah man, it was pretty surreal. I’ve been working with these guys for so long that it felt like the rain had finally come.
Yeah, we can imagine. When you released it and it ended up 15th on the Billboard 200 as well, that must have been a sign that things were changing? I didn’t even realise that! So that’s cool. Or maybe I was told that and I just forgot about it. So many days we’re just so focused on the day-today and planning the next show that things kind of fly by us sometimes.
In terms of the show, what songs are you really enjoying performing from the new album? I’m really liking ‘Fade In Fade Out’, it’s one of those songs that that the lyric holds so much to me. I can really feel it a lot when I sing it every night, it feels very personal but also I feel the audience feel it too. It’s nice.
This album was very personal to you, whilst you were writing it was there ever a sense of fear about people knowing too much about your life?
Interview with Jonny
That thought definitely crossed my mind a few times but I think just as an individual, apart from the band, or being in a public position from being in a band like this, I’ve always been a pretty open person. I like to talk to people about things that other people don’t like to talk about - from skeletons in their closet with their families to sex lives to relationship stuff that people usually just keep to themselves. I like talking about those things. Obviously you can’t talk about EVERYTHING because it could be awkward for someone else or dangerous ‘cause people can use it against you. At the same time I feel like it’s the biggest reason why so many people don’t progress because the more open we are the more clear it becomes that everybody kinda deals with the same sh*t, just a lot of people don’t talk about it.
Are there any tracks on the album that stand out to you more personally, whether it’s through the lyrics or even through the melody. That stand out to me in particular? They’re all kind of my babies so it’s kind of hard to pick, you know, it’s like picking your favourite child or something. ‘Still In Love’ was a real special one melodically, I just felt really good about a lot of that. Actually, most of the vocals I did on that song I did singing through a guitar pedal. It was like a revert pedal made by Earthquaker Devices, they hooked me up right before we made the record with a bunch of pedals and I started running my vocals through a bunch of them. I just ran it through that one and it gave me this really eerie, longing unsettled feel every time I sang through it. It inspired that song, so I’m really happy with it melodically.
So that’s something new that you hadn’t done before, do you think there’s a chance that you could take that forward with you onto your other work in the future. Oh absolutely, that was a big influence on this record that wasn’t on the last few. Ben (our drummer) was holding down the drums so solid that I didn’t have to worry about getting behind the kit every hour and playing with the guys so it’s freed me up as a vocalist because before I used to always be on the drums first, then we’d go into another room and I’d work on vocals. I was always switching between the two mindsets and it kind of tore me in two. Now with this record I built like a pedal rig, just like a guitar player has an effects pedal board, I also attached a computer to it with a lot more effects and ran it through both of them. We’d be rehearsing and I was effecting my voice just like it would almost sound on record and that actually inspired certain ideas that wouldn’t have come unless that effect was there to play off of. I’m going to keep evolving off that for sure.
I think that’s kind of where a lot of bands can go wrong, they don’t change with the times. You almost need to stay one step ahead of yourself. Exactly, actually a lot of what I’ve been doing lately with my free time in-between commitments on the road is I’m just studying new software that’s out there and new gear, getting my hands dirty with new devices that make me work on music differently, that actually puts me in kind of like a more vunerable place where I don’t really know the answers as much and I have to kind of refigure it out. I find that process is really healthy, it does rejuvinate your sense of excitement about it, ‘cause if you just go in and do it the same way, I mean you just have to listen, you can hear when bands do that, it just gets so lifeless and regurgitated and I never want to turn into that.
I don’t think any fan wants that for one of their favourite bands. You’re on the road with Papa Roach and Escape The Fate at the moment. When touring with huge bands, do you ever feel like you have to prove yourself? Honestly, it’s a really encouraging environment being with Papa Roach because they are like a little bit of a friendly competition in the sense of bringing it every night. Jacoby always gets me pumped up because he’s in a groove and he’s got me there and so I’ve learned a lot from him. Every time we tour with a band I try to learn something from them, and Jacoby I’m definitely still taking notes on. It’s been a real positive thing.
You’ve got the alternative version of ‘Don’t Stop’ with Jacoby on it, have you been throwing that out on the tour? We have been playing it, we haven’t had Jacoby sing with us yet on it, it’s just a little bit difficult to coordinate our schedule. Papa Roach are usually warming up when we’re on stage, it’s just kind of tricky. If I were him I wouldn’t want to blow my voice out or take an hour out of my day just to be ready earlier like that, it’s difficult. We have talked about it, we’re going to start doing it soon when we get a little more free time.
You made a few stops here in the UK in December and played some smaller venues, how did those shows feel? Those were really fun shows actually, it was the most encouraging UK and European tour we’ve ever had just ‘cause we were packing out these smaller venues and people were just really excited. It’s always like a really fun stage where you can feel it start to turn a corner when you can see people sing every lyric and there’s that excitement and it’s still kind of small so the shows are like really memorable. When they start getting bigger they become less personal and have a little less character and you’re not looking at people and the lights in their eyes. This was the most memorable one yet but it was also the most tiring tour I’ve ever done, we were all crammed in a splitter van and we had some of the most longest drives ever. We called it the “No Sleep, Kill Yourselves” tour. It felt awful but at the same time it was super encouraging based on the response. At least it was that!
Speaking of the live shows, how did the Scorpion Tail get introduced into the live shows? Many of our ideas usually start from one person and then it turns into a different idea once another person gets involved then it evolves when the third person gets involved. This one started from an idea that I had had years ago where I wanted to DJ the band. I had seen all these electronic artists basically remixing and screwing pre-recorded material and I wanted to do that between Mark and Daniel while they were playing live instruments, I didn’t feel like I had seen anybody do that, so we started screwing around with it and in the rehearsal room it was pretty cool. We had some interesting sounds. Then Daniel, our bass player, was like, “When you do it, it sounds cool but it looks stupid” - I had like this little video game controller that I’m pressing buttons on. Daniel took that musical idea and then turned it into something visual, he started learning how to weld because he has some live ideas. He started building this controller for me to wrestle with so instead of turning a knob I’m actually throwing a lever with my arm. Instead of pressing a button with my thumb I’m slamming it with my hand. It’s the same function but it’s more of a full body experience rather than a finger experience. Dan likes to call it “The world’s first dubstep machine”, an actual machine versus an electronic device.
How do shows in the UK compare to America? I think when you’re at a show here in the States it’s not that different, depending on the area you’re in. I think the culture surrounding music is very different. In the States it feels like hip hop and urban music is much more the status quo of mainstream whereas rock is more of a niche than it’s ever been. It’s not just rock, but its culture as a whole. It’s just become very frilly over here. It’s lost a lot of its guts. That’s what it feels like.
That sounds great. After Download when can we expect you back for another tour? There’s a chance we could come back again right before the end of the year, like November. But if not it will probably be some time in the Spring.
In terms of Nothing More, what else can we expect from you guys in 2018? This year is just going to be playing a lot more off the new record as we haven’t gotten to play those songs much out in the world. Have a super intense high energy show that’s only getting more high energy. Whenever we tour I think we get a little more foam at the mouth. That’s pretty much it, man. Then 2019 I think we’ll start wrapping up the record and doing the final tours and then start thinking about the next album maybe.
Interview with Robby
So looking back on 'Boxes', how happy have you been with the response to the album so far, and what do you think it's done for Goo Goo Dolls? I think we had a great time making that record, we did it between NYC and LA with a couple of producers and I think we've successfully made it to the next phase.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Boxes' at the moment, and why? ‘Over and Over’ is a spirited upbeat song, super fun to play and sing and its infectious chants really seem to make an impact live even for those who were initially unfamiliar with the track.
Last year you also put out an EP entitled 'You Should Be Happy', so how did that come together, and can you tell us a bit about the original material that features on there? It's become an EP kind of world that we live in, things are moving fast, kind of like small batch beer, it's like small batch music. Giving you an opportunity to be exposed to smaller batches of music more often.
Do you think the material will be an indication or even an influence on your next full length output? We'll see. I can't wait .......
How did you end up working with Drew Pearson on the release? We did a bit of work with Drew on the ‘Boxes’ album, we were looking for someone "fresh" to bring into the mix, John met up with Drew threw a few ideas around and struck up a pretty great relationship. He has worked with some pretty big pop bands over the years and we felt his take on the Goo Goo Dolls sound was a cool direction to take.
How did you end up collaborating with Alex Aldi for the mix version of 'Boxes', and how rewarding was it for you to hear the track in a different way? Alex did a great job with his remix of ‘Boxes’, keeping the elements that gave the song strength and building a sonic atmosphere which took the song to a different place.
How did the artwork for 'You Should Be Happy' come together, and what does it mean to you? The artwork for YSBH was done by an emerging artist from Buffalo, NY named Chuck Tingley, a super powerful artist, please check out more of his stuff online. We saw this image and it just seemed to jump out at the time.
The last time we spoke, we talked about your record label 'Good Charamel Records'. So how has that been going recently, and can you tell us a bit about your latest releases from it? New releases from Shonen Knife and The Molice for 2018 both w/ US tours this year and we continue to move forward spreading yummy J rock throughout N. America.
You'll be doing a 20th anniversary tour of 'Dizzy Up The Girl' this year. When you look back on the album, what do you remember the most about putting it together, and how would you say it still compares to anything else you've done? I remember that was when our lives changed dramatically, personally, musically and otherwise it was like a gear shift for Johnny and I. It's going to be a blast to revisit that album live, and I think it's going to be a special night for the fans who come out to share it with us. Many listeners have grown up with this record (including myself) and the songs on that particular release resonate with a pretty significant group of people, it's going to be amazing.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? I LOVE coming to the UK for shows, amazing venues, amazing crowds and pretty much a non-stop supply of Dolly Mixture candies for me to enjoy while I'm visiting!
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from the touring cycle for 'Boxes'? The whole tour was great, it's tough for me to remember when we actually started or stopped that phase as we have pretty much been playing non-stop, but I truly enjoy watching the people who come out to the show sharing the new music with us and moving on to the next part of what we do.
What else can we expect to see from Goo Goo Dolls in 2018? We have nothing but awesome stuff coming up. See you guys soon OK?
Interview with Winston
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and what has it been like to play some of the newer material live? This year has been an interesting one for us. We started with a ten year anniversary tour in Australia for our album 'Horizons'. We never thought we'd actually do an anniversary tour for an album, or that anything would get remembered ten years later. It was a really weird way to start the year, but it was really awesome. We then did a bunch of pop up secret shows in Europe. Just a handful of shows for whoever was onto it. They were announced with just 48 hours notice, and they sold out within a couple of minutes. In really small capacity venues, no barrier, no production. Just a complete hardcore gig! It was pretty mental. Yeah, we played two of the newest singles at those gigs, which was awesome. It was really great to be able to start playing those songs live from just a bare bones music stand point, rather than having to fit it into a production, with things exploding, and spinning around. We could actually just focus on what the songs were when we wrote them. Which is just music, so it was awesome.Â
So, how did you get to the album title 'Reverence', and what does it mean to you? The album time came very late in the game. It was just a word that literally popped into my head. I don’t remember the thought pattern behind it, but it just clicked. What it basically represents is the period of time where this album was written, and everything that we were going through at that point in time. Which is a lot of tragedy. The outcome of that was being mindful of the time that you have, and holding what you have in front of you in reverence. Taking the time to realise that the smallest things make your life special. We tend to skip over a lot of things, and not take notice of the time that passes. These little things going on, where you realise what they actually meant. So, that’s what the album title actually means.
We've read that the lyrics will be "emotionally intense" so what can you tell us about that, and how would you say the approach to the lyrics has compared to anything you've done before? I’ve applied a similar process to every set of lyrics I’ve ever written. The same goes for the music as well. They’re just snapshots from the time where we wrote the album. The album took a couple of years to write, and I wrote about whatever was effecting me at the time. This album just happens to be very personal. We were dealing with sickness, and loss, very directly for family members, and friends. It was a very intense period for the band. That came out very bluntly. Dealing with the grief and loss throughout the album. It ended up being very dark, and coming from a very dark stand point and perspective. That’s what is meant by emotionally intense.
We've read that this will be the most "sonically adventurous" effort yet from you guys, so can you also elaborate on that, and maybe how the sound on this record compares to anything you've done before? The sound of this record is the next evolution for the band. We’ve always been evolving. From day one. We don’t really like going back, simply because it’s something we’ve done before. We like challenging ourselves, and we enjoy what we write, and staying interesting. This time around, especially in the wake of what happened, was to just do what we want to do. There’s no point in reaching back for a safe sound, just because it’s safe. Because it’s tried and tested doesn’t mean that it’s going to be fun to continue with. We just pushed the boundaries further out, in the terms of the distance between the light and darkness of everything that we do between. The concept of what Parkway Drive is and could be, was going to be defined by whatever music we created. Rather than what we created before. It lead to a very unique set of songs.
How did the music video for 'The Void' come together, and what was it like to work with Allan Hardy? ‘The Void’ was mental! It was great working with Allan. He was the visionary behind this thing. We had a vague idea of what he was trying to capture. When he is telling you “yeah, we are going to film this video with a robot, one of you is going to be on fire! There’s going to be multiple people in the shots.” It was so far beyond anything we’d done before. We were literally just trusting in his process. It’s the most professional video we’ve ever done. It was like walking onto a Hollywood set or something, with a stunt team, and live effects. Me getting set on fire, with a robot filming everything. It was a really different way of doing the takes, so that they were seamless. It was insane. He did a really good job, and the entire crew absolutely smashed it. We were stunned with how well he made it come out.
The 'Wishing Wells' music video is certainly something completely different to 'The Void'. So how did it come together, and if possible, can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? The meaning behind this track is about dealing with grief. The process of grieving after loss, and trying to rationalise something that you have no answer for. Simply trying to cope via placing blame. Finding meaning in bigger things, because you can’t comprehend it at that point in time. It was for that reason, that the visuals for the song are stark and personal, because the song is simply raw emotion. The lyrics are very raw, and that is what it is aimed to capture. It was that grief personified on screen. We just wanted to put it out there, and that was it. Which is the exact opposite of ‘The Void’!
How did you end up working with George Hadjichristou for 'Reverence'? So we actually worked with George on ‘Ire’ as well. He is our front of house guy live. He has been doing it with us for eight or nine years now. We started working with him as he is a studio guy first and foremost. He has always said before ‘Ire’ that he can make a record for us, and that he knew he could do something awesome. We trusted him on ‘Ire’ and the process just worked so well. It was like working with family, which is amazing. So this time around it wasn’t even a question of who we would be working with, it was just George. His brother Dean is actually the studio technician. We did it in Dean’s studio again. Which is fantastic. Dean is always behind the desk, and George is with the sound and the concepts. He gets us, because we are a live band first and foremost. We try to capture that and put it on the record. He knows exactly how we work live. There’s no translation differences when it comes to the concepts that we are trying to make.
How did the artwork for 'Reverence' come together, and what does it mean? The process for creating and finding the artwork was trying to capture the era of the band, and what that meant. Where from the word go, people would realise that this is different, because it is a different album compared to anything we’ve done before. It’s a lot more serious, and a lot darker. I wanted to work with something classic, and something from the past to illustrate that. Our friend Donny Phillips did the artwork, and after bouncing around the references and the concept he understood it. He sent through a bunch of reference images, and as soon as this image came up, it was just like “That’s it, it completely illustrates the fall from the lightness to the darkness” which is exactly what we experienced in the wake of getting all of the news about our friends and family. Coping with extreme illness. That’s basically what it represents. The turmoil from the last few years, which has gone into the creation process.
How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Download Festival, and what can attending fans expect? We are psyched. Really psyched. It’s an opportunity, and a responsibility to close out a stage at a festival. Especially at Download. To be given that opportunity to headline the second stage. We are bringing everything we have, and every banger we have. With the idea to scorch a massive mark in that hill! We are playing before Guns and Roses, and we want to leave an impression that’s worthy of playing before Guns and Roses. There’s no punches pulled. At this time we have a big reputation to uphold, and what we have planned is the idea of blowing that reputation completely out of the water! Which is a high bar to achieve, but we are going for it.
What else can we expect to see from Parkway Drive in 2018? We are basically going to be touring! It doesn’t slow down. We’ve written a record that we are incredibly proud of, that we think is the best work that we have created. Which will compliment everything that we’ve done before sonically, and enhance everything that we’ve made before sonically. We want to put that on stage, in a way that gives people a show that they will not only connect with, but walk away thinking “Holy f*ck, that’s something to remember.” We aim to keep pushing that, and pushing that for as long as we can, and for as far as we can. We just aim to hit as many big stages, and as many people as possible. To continue doing that until it taps out. At this point in time it doesn’t seem anywhere close to tapping out. So you know, you’re going to see us around.
w with Eric
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year so far, and what has it been like to play some of the newer material from 'Attention Attention' live? We started off this record cycle about three weeks ago in Canada. We hadn’t been to that country in five years. Last time we were up there we were supporting KISS, and it was at the end of the ‘Amaryllis’ touring cycle. So it was really great to get back there to kick off the ‘Attention Attention’ world tour! It’s always interesting starting a new cycle after a year or so off, because there is always some dust to knock off. But we’re getting into good form I think. As for playing the new material, its been a challenge, but a very worthwhile one. You don’t always realise when making a record what you might be setting yourself up for down the road in a live setting. Musically and vocally, there are a lot of moving parts on ‘Attention Attention’. So we’ve been rehearsing sometimes two or three hours a day at sound check, or in a rehearsal room backstage, to get ready to unleash these songs live to the world! So far we’re only playing ‘Devil’ and ‘The Human Radio’, but I have to say the reaction of the audience to these two is unlike anything we’ve experienced with new material to date. People seem hungry for these songs, so it’s very exciting!
We read that you had 22 bits of music ready for this album before you started putting it together. So, can you tell us a bit about that, and maybe how it inspired/started the spark for the creative process to 'Attention Attention'? Yeah, I started working on new material every day on our co-headlining tour with Five Finger Death Punch in the fall of 2016. I didn’t want to be caught without any song ideas when it came time to start the real writing process for the record. I felt like on ‘Threat To Survival’ I wasn’t really prepared going into the writing for that record because we took so much time off after touring ‘Amaryllis’. And at the time I was in a pretty bad spot personally as well. So yeah, this go round, to get a jump on things I got to work early. I would start a new track every couple of days. I’d get it to a point, then start another. It kept me busy and focused. They were just tracks and some melody ideas, but they were all complete thoughts in my head. We only ended up using one or two of them for the record actually. Not because they weren’t good, but because I really enjoy the organic nature of writing a song on an acoustic guitar or piano in a room from scratch with Brent, or with Brent, Zach and myself. I always knew we had these other tracks sitting in reserve if we ever went through a time when maybe the creativity wasn’t flowing as well. It was like having a songwriting safety net. One of those dressing room tracks actually ended up being the final song on ‘Attention Attention’. It’s called ‘Brilliant’. It’s probably one of mine and Brent‘s favourite songs we’ve ever written. So getting one great song out of those initial 22 ideas made all of that work I did worth it to me for sure.
So, how did you get to the album title ‘Attention Attention’, and what does it mean to you guys? 'Attention Attention' is a story based album that begins with this individual walking into a room, pulling up a chair, sitting down, and beginning the journey of fixing themselves. And the song ‘Attention Attention’ is the third track on the album, so it's at the front of the story. Brent and I were actually throwing around ideas for album titles with each other toward the end of making the record. A lot of those titles were long and drawn out, almost like a book title or something. One day we were standing in the live room at the studio and I looked at him and said, ”We should just call the album ‘Attention Attention’. It makes total sense”. It made sense because the person who is living this record is going through some serious emotional trauma, and they are trying to figure out how to climb out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves. The front half of this record is all about coming to terms with the fact that you’ve put yourself in a precarious, and potentially life threatening situation. It’s dangerous. And I feel like there is some serious self realisation that comes with a moment like that. And that’s what the song ‘Attention Attention’ is about in essence. It’s this person coming to terms with their state of mind. That’s why it’s the perfect album title. Just as you have to fall into a hole to figure out how to climb your way out, you have to learn that sometimes the only way to get sane is to admit to that you’re crazy. ‘Attention Attention’ is the alarm in your head.
How did the music video for ‘Devil’ come together, and what was it like working with Bill Yukich? Bill is a super talented dude! He has a calm confidence that I really like a lot. I guess it’s because I’m a record producer, and he’s a video director. And record producers and film/video directors have basically the same job, just different mediums. He never gets all excited trying to sell you on his idea or vision. He just walks in the room, looks at you, and says, “I got this.”. It’s very reassuring. And his body of work speaks for itself. He edited all of the Beyoncé ‘Lemonade’ videos, and he just got done working with Marilyn Manson and Johnny Depp. We actually have plans to do videos for the entire record and put it together like a video/film for the album. The concept for ‘Devil’ actually came about over a very short amount of time. There was another treatment that Bill originally had for the video that the label thought was maybe too edgy. So Bill and Brent went back to the drawing board and came up with what we have now in just a couple of days. I think it’s pretty perfect. A great way to start the record in video form. We love how he has incorporated the chair that the individual in the room is sitting in and has established it as a thread for all the videos going forward. You see the chair again in ‘The Human Radio’ video, but the person sitting in it is completely different. Same chair, different person, different set of circumstances. It really speaks to the fact that the person sitting in the room during the album can be any of us.
This is a concept album based around “our will to overcome struggles”, so can you elaborate on how that idea came about, and maybe what we can expect from that approach as we listen to the album? This is an autobiographical record. It is basically written about the last 2 1/2 to 3 years of our lives. When we came off of the road after touring ‘Amaryllis’, we all fell apart. Especially Brent and myself. Brent fell back into his drug addiction and alcoholism, and I fell off the cliff with my depression issues. I could bearly get out of bed or leave the house. We had been so busy working and touring that record that when we came home and stopped, we drove right into a brick wall. The four of us were entirely unprepared. So we spent the ‘Threat To Survival’ tour repairing the damage that we had done. We were able to take those experiences of falling down, and rescuing ourselves and each other, and then put them into songs that the listener can grab hold of, and in them find their own meaning and healing, so in essence this record is that journey. From the insanity and chaos of rock bottom in a song like ‘Devil’, through the healing process of one friend helping another deal with depression in a song like ‘Get Up’, all the way to overcoming, but still being cautious at the end of the album with a song like ‘Brilliant’. It’s a story about not being afraid to fail. Failure is after all the greatest teacher. We just had to learn that.
‘Kill Your Conscience’ is about the “pitfalls of social media”, so can you tell us about that, and maybe what you think about the effect it has had on people over the last couple of years? There is a lot of emotion in that song. I remember being really low during the throws of depression, and being on Twitter or Instagram and seeing the way people talk to and treat each other on those platforms. It was actually a contributing factor to the way I was feeling at the time. It was right around the time of the US campaign and the election for president. I saw people saying things to each other that A) they would never say to each other in person, and B) sounded like they had lost all sense of humanity. It felt like people were cashing in their souls. It still does actually. Social media makes it way too easy for people to push each other around verbally and to break each other down. I think it’s because it’s not real to the person typing those things. It’s almost like when you spend money using a credit card. It doesn’t have the same weight or effect on you as if you have to hand cash to someone. If you have to handover cash, you’re going to think twice. So typing something heartless and cruel isn’t going to stick with you if you’re just spewing a verbal flamethrower at someone, then closing your phone, and politely ordering your latte at a Starbucks 2000 miles away. But if you stand in front of somebody and look that person in the eye, chances are you’re never going to say those hurtful things. It might not change your opinion, but you’re probably going to go about it differently, because you’re a human, and that person is a human, because you’re looking at THE PERSON and not at some avatar or stupid emoji on a screen. That’s what ‘Kill Your Conscience’ is about. It’s about feeling sorry for the individual who is typing negative things to someone on their smart phone just so they can have their useless opinion. It’s sad. Can’t we just get back to Instagram'ing our food and posting funny cat videos or something? As the song says, “Better you than me.”
For this one, you went in-house for the first time ever, yourself being the producer. So how did that decision come about, and what was that whole process like? I have produced a few songs for the band previously. Songs that did quite well actually like ‘Cut The Cord’ and ‘Diamond Eyes’. So It wasn’t uncharted territory for me, but I was still a bit cautious about producing my own band. Bands tend to benefit greatly from having the outside opinion of a great producer, and I knew that if I took the helm we would be without that element. But I also knew that I had the pulse on this album and what it had the potential to be. So when I had the call with Steve Robertson (our long time A&R rep at Atlantic Records) about me being the sole producer, I broke it down to him this way. I said, “I’d rather go crazy making this record myself than go crazy watching someone else try to make it.” And it was as simple as that. However, the first thing I did after that decision was made was to bring our good friend Doug McKean on board as engineer. Doug engineered ‘The Sound Of Madness’ and ‘Amaryllis’ for us, as well as being the engineer on other iconic records such as Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’, and My Chemical Romance’s ‘The Black Parade’ - so he knows a thing or two! Doug became my safety net when I needed an outside ear or perspective on something. He was invaluable to us on ‘Attention Attention’. We all have a great relationship in this band as well. So when it came down to me “being in charge” or whatever, there were zero problems. We just had a lot of fun! Brent, Zach, and Barry also helped me when I needed it. That’s just who we are. That’s our band dynamic.
What song would you say was the most rewarding for you to put together on ‘AA’? For me, its always the songs that are the problem children during the process, that are the most rewarding when done. On this record those were ‘The Human Radio’ and ‘Special’. Neither one of those songs wanted to go quietly. They fought me and until the very end. Sometimes you have to let the song come to you when it’s ready, rather than trying to force it. That was the case with both of those songs, and I love them for it. I think they are both beautiful, and both turned out exactly as they were supposed to, and better than I could have hoped.
How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Download Festival, and what can attending fans expect? Massively excited is an understatement!!! It’s the best spot we’ve ever had at Download and we are over the moon about it! You know, it’s an amazing feeling that the four of us are blessed enough to share. Being from the United States, and creating our music here, then crossing the ocean to the UK and playing our songs for some of the most passionate fans we have ever witnessed is an experience that’s hard to quantify. But that’s what Download is to us. It’s a tangible representation of everything that we have ever strived for. The view from that stage is what my teenage dreams looked like! It’s an honour to play that stage, and we’re so lucky to get that experience. As for what we have in store, there will definitely be some new tracks from ‘Attention Attention’ to be heard. As well as some of our live favourites! I can promise everyone that we will bring all of our energy to Donington!
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from touring in the UK over the last couple of years? The tour we did with Iron Maiden last year is hard to beat. Feeling the energy of those fans night after night left a profound and lasting impression on the band, and on me personally. Those audiences stayed with me throughout the making of this new record. Seeing a legion of rock and metal fans bringing it like that night after night gave me hope. Here in the States we are often inundated with people telling us that “rock is dead”, that rock and metal fans and the bands they love are part of some dying sub genre. Well I sure as hell didn’t see a sub genre in the UK last year! I saw passion. I saw love. Love for loud guitars, big drums, and intense vocals. I came home with those memories and we started writing the remainder of our album. The intensity of this record is owed in large part to that tour with Maiden, and to the amazing rock and metal fans we played for. I can honestly say that their spirit and energy is in this new Shinedown album. I know because I put it in there. And that's not lip service, that's the truth.
What else can we expect to see from Shinedown in 2018? Easy answer. Touring, touring, and more touring. I think the UK fans should keep a close eye on our 2018 schedule!
Was there a moment when you realised that you were going to be more than just an upcoming band?
I think definitely when we first started playing around home and friends, family & people really started supporting us, that is what really helped us get off the ground. My Dad took a lot of interest in us at an early age and helped us understand the business side of things. He and my uncle Fred (The drummer in The Kentucky Headhunters) were extremely big forces in guiding us. I think the turning point was when we were opening shows for The Kentucky Headhunters doing bike rallies. I met a guy named Jim, who worked at Atlantic Records and he gave me his card. Atlantic didn’t sign the band but we picked up a management team called Indigo Management and one of the guys who worked there, happened to just be at this little showcase we were doing for Atlantic records and he liked the band and he and I sat down and were talking. It was a match made in heaven. Then we went up and did a showcase for about thirty labels and the only one that even liked us was Roadrunner, so they signed us in like 2005 and we were with them for ten or more years, then in 2015 we parted ways and signed with Mascot. Mascot has been a wonderful label to work with and helped us just be who we are. We told them that we didn’t want any A&R or anyone overseeing, we just wanted to make our own music and they totally let us so it’s cool. It’s been a long journey, it’s definitely with ‘Family Tree’ out people are seeing all of our musical influences come to the table now and it’s wonderful.
What are some of your main influences? We all have similar influences. I grew up being a huge Beatles and Led Zeppelin fan, those were my two big bands. We were so fortunate growing up to have an old farm house, a space to rehearse on a farm. It’s cool because we put up all these posters of like CREAM, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and they were practically heating the place as it wasn’t insulated at all as it was an old farm house, so we really took on all those influences. We listened to The Rolling Stones and going back to early Son House and BB King, you know all those great blues artists and Motown stuff, like Sam Cooke, Percy Sledge, Al Green. Perosnally, I was brought up heavily into R&B and Motown, my Dad would always play it round the house when I was little. So I grew up loving that stuff. You know The Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, all that stuff just resonated with me. I mean everyone has got influences. Ben is a huge Elvis fan, Jon is a huge Elton John fan and he loves R&B stuff too. We have so many influences, it’s hard to say what our favourite bands are.
How happy have you been with the response to your new album 'Family Tree'? I think ‘Family Tree’ has definitely showed all of our influences come to the forefront. Last year we made a record called ‘Black To Blues’, it was a blues EP that we covered some of the greats, but we did them in our own way. We just went in to have a good time and we didn’t think that when we put it out that it would do much, we just wanted people to have something to listen to, do something that we always wanted to do and I’ll be damned that it went to number 1 on the Billboard blues chart and it stayed there for weeks! There was a lot of other really big acts on that chart with new stuff. It was great that the blues community liked it so much and our fans did too, but doing that blues EP we went in with six days and did pretty much one take and we didn’t rehearse it, we didn’t know what we were doing. We took that mentality on ‘Family Tree’. We went in, we didn’t rehearse and we were just like “Let’s nail this stuff’ and it’s a first time take, it’s not pre-thought out. Sometimes you go through the motions when rehearsing so when you don’t rehearse you get this spectacular raw energy and you don’t know what the hell you’re really doing and that’s cool, and there are mistakes and spontaneity and I think that’s what’s missing in great rock ‘n’ roll now, people should just take a chance and not make things so formulated and perfect. When you look back at records like Zeppelin and The Stones, The Beatles there are mistakes all over those records but that’s what makes it beautiful and that’s what rock ‘n’ roll should be about. I think it’s amazing to see the reviews and the way people are feeling it so we could not be happier.
How excited are you to be playing the second headliner slot on the main stage at Download Festival UK on the 9th June before Guns N Roses and what can attending fans expect? Well that is going to be pretty insane, I think we are all pretty nervous about that. I remember Duff (McKagan) had his band Loaded they came over and opened for us in the UK back in 2008 or 2009 and that was great getting to know Duff, he is such a sweet guy and obviously we are into Guns ‘N’ Roses, who couldn’t be! It’s going to be fun, we are really looking forward to it.
You have played at Download Festival UK four times now we believe, so what have been some of your best experiences from performing there? The first year I remember we had no idea what we were doing and they booked us and I think we opened the main stage that day and we all walked out and we knew there was a lot of people we could see from backstage but the wings of the side stage were curtained off so you couldn’t really see left and right, only straight out from the deck, then we walked out and all of us got like nervous and felt sick as it was so much bigger than what we thought, that was a great experience. I remember a couple of years ago we played and it was pouring with rain and people were standing out in it and loving it, we have had so many great experiences at Download, it’s a great festival, it’s like our monumental show that we get to do every couple of years. Doing the arenas and headlining in the UK is crazy to see where we have come and if you had told me in 2001 or even in 2006 before we came over to tour the UK, that we would be able to play for so many great people and do those size shows, I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s so cool to get to do that and have a place where people like you.
What new songs are you looking forward to playing the most on tour? We are doing ‘Bad Habit’, ‘Burnin’ and ‘Family Tree’, the last song off the record. We are playing stuff from the ‘Black To Blues’ record and the older stuff too but as far as ‘Family Tree’ goes it’s hard to not play every single song of it live, you’ve got to try and figure out how to make it all work. We are looking forward to coming over across the pond, every single day we are working on stuff to get together for that.
It's been ten years since 'Folklore and Superstition' was released. Looking back on the album, what do you remember the most from that time, and how would you say it still compares to the rest of your albums? Oh God, it’s been ten years! That’s crazy to think about. ‘Folklore’ was a timeless piece of music, it was the album that really broke us in the UK and Europe. We did that record with Bob Marlette who did some great stuff, we recorded it in Nashville, Tennessee and it was so funny because I remember we were in a pretty famous studio called Blackbird which is owned by Martina McBride the country singer and her husband and we were making the album and these long-haired dudes came in from next door and they were fixed to start making their record and it was Kings Of Leon and we got talking to them. They were making ‘Only By The Night’ and that was the huge record that had all the big songs, so it was a cool time. ‘Folklore’ was the album that really dived deep into us becoming songwriters, the first album we had a lot of help from my Dad on was ‘Folklore’ and we had never been anywhere or travelled and on ‘Folklore’ we headed outside the country and did our first tour in the UK in 2007. That year we opened for Led Zeppelin and Whitesnake over in the UK, we opened for Nickelback the year after, so ‘Folklore’ was a magical record, it had a lot of great themes, and it was a storytelling record. The playing was out there, we really dug up a lot of the blues roots on that record and I think people still enjoy it.
What else can we expect to see from Black Stone Cherry in 2018? Well touring, we are going to tour our butts off and do Download Festival. We can’t say too much but hopefully we will come over soon at some point to do our headline shows. Stay tuned, you will hear it all soon enough!
Interview with Matt
The album is of course titled ‘Gravity’, what brought this to be the name of the new record? The same as I’ve always done really, take a title of a song on the record which just has a good ring to it and hopefully have a significance to the record as well. The song ‘Gravity’ was the first song we finished for the album, that was around May or June last year and I just loved the title. It’s such an iconic word, there’s a lot of things that can come from it and I thought it would be a great title for a record.
With 20 months of touring, how important is that few months break to the individual band members? It’s vitally important. If we didn’t get those chances and take the time we’d probably lose our minds. It’s quite an intense thing being in a touring band, there’s a lot of travelling, a lot of home sickness, a lot of jetlag, eating bad, having no down time and having no kind of separation, there is a lot of demanding things that come with being a touring band. When we do come off, even if it’s just a week between certain tours we don’t see each other, and we don’t speak to each other. That’s not to be anti-social with each other, we just need to go home and decompress, spend time with family and other friends or else you’d just go quite bonkers.
After all these years do you get used to the fact that you’re living in each other's pockets for weeks, months, even years at a time? It has become normal now and thankfully we started at a pretty young age and we got signed at a good age, we weren’t kids, I was 22 when we started getting interest and I was 23 when we signed a deal, so I was pretty much an adult. We’d been friends since we were 12 years old at school, so we’d had a great solid friendship and relationship and all that kind of good stuff, so it wasn’t really that hard to keep relationships together. It was more what we were doing anyway before the band even existed.
You’ve said that on ‘Gravity’ you’ve “stretched your creative wings like never before”, how would you compare putting this album together to previous albums? It was quite different, it was similar in many respects but the main goal on this album for me personally being the more driving force more than ever behind this one in particular was not relying on the band’s history and success to take it into the future. It became apparent to me when we began writing it that the more traditional metal material with lots of technical guitar parts and drum sections and song structures that it had become boring and stale, it didn’t feel right at all and became quite uncomfortable. It wasn’t making me happy and it wasn’t exciting anymore so in that sense it became clear that there needed to be a bit of thought behind on where we wanted to go. Like I said, I don’t want to rely on the band’s history to take us into the future, I thought it was riskier to do that. I thought the time was right to take a step out of what we do and do something creatively that wasn’t massively different, it’s still a heavy record and has all the parts you’d want as a rock or metal fan but incorporating new sounds that we can’t actually do with our instruments. We’d been stuck in the old school way for many years, we haven’t really wanted to incorporate music technology and electronic elements into our music. We’ve been very adamant that that was something we didn’t want to do but I think that the time was right. We needed to do that now and experiment with sound and technology, writing something that we’d never really done before. It was really weird and uncomfortable at first, we didn’t really know what we were doing as we hadn’t done it before, but it was about experimenting and having fun, letting our hair down and saying, “We’re the only ones who are ever going to hear this unless it comes out so we’ve nothing to lose here.” We’ve already won in many respects so let’s have some fun, let’s push the boat out, be creative and eventually we’ll hit on something and we did. Now listening back, it’s not that dramatically different in my ears anyway, it’s just executed differently. Instead of show casing individual talents on their instruments, now it’s stripping it all back and making the song king. Show casing those individual abilities, we’ve done it a million times on each record, so we wanted to make powerful, anthemic metal tracks. I think we’ve done that.
As a musician, trying new things, how important is progression as individuals and collectively as a band in how you make a new album? It’s massively important for a band to evolve, it has to be natural but we’re six albums in now. It just came to a point where I felt that was what we needed to do, just be a bit more imaginative, creative and be brave. We’ve had incredible success in the past and that is great, but we want more of that in the future and the only way to do that is to progress, be brave and take a step out of our comfort zone. Ultimately when you do that, magic can happen. They’ve had this formula and they’ve stuck to their guns for many years and many records, all of a sudden they take this step to the right or the left and it spins people, the world just explodes for them. That’s not something we’re trying to capture here on purpose but hopefully this record, being brave and a bit more creative and imaginative than we’ve ever been before that might come with it. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t because this is what we wanted to do anyway. It’s happened a lot of times in the past for a lot of bands, they’ve taken a leap of faith and it’s happened. The worst thing that can happen to us by doing this is we still carry on at the level we’re at which is an amazing thing so let’s just go for it.
‘Over It’ was the first song to come out from the album, how was that song put together? That track was actually a bit of a bitch really, it was kicking about in various formats over the last 12 months. There was a really thrashy version with a ton of solos and stuff, that was when these things became obvious, that it sounded great. It took about three different forms and it was the last song we tracked in the studio. We were set to give up on it because it just didn’t seem to be going anywhere but we took the chorus from another song, adjusted the tempo slightly so the intro and verses and choruses could stick together, made this sort of hybrid of two songs and all of a sudden it came to life and it just had a tempo and a groove that Bullet never had before. We just felt this was one of those songs, for some reason we’d never really exploited that arena/festival/50,000 people bouncing in unison, we’ve never really had that moment. It’s rare to be six albums in and we’ve never had a moment like this so as soon as that came into play and we began to layer sounds and added a bit of electronica on it, it just evolved. It was a beautiful thing because we’d already thrown it in the bin twice and it becomes the first track people hear. One of those weird twists really.
What other songs are you particularly looking forward to people hearing or playing live? Which ones really stand out for you? Oh man, that’s really hard to say. They all are magic to me and they all have their moments. The album is so diverse and so dark and light. Depending on my mood depends on my favourite song, it’s an album of such dynamic variety which again was done on purpose. We wanted to make every song different to anything we’d done in the past which is very hard to do this far down the road. If you’re looking in to the heavier side of things, I think a song like ‘Piece of Me’ as it is going to tick all the boxes, it’s got a crazy heavy groove with some aggressive vocals and a kick ass breakdown section in the middle which is going to be a metal heads favourite for sure. Then there’s a song like ‘Letting You Go’ which is pushing the boundaries of the electronica, it’s a big bold statement, moving into a more contemporary, modern sound. Again, the song is king, you can play that in your bedroom or on an acoustic guitar and it sounds just as good. Everyone’s going to have their own opinions on it, but I think depending on the way your head is that day, if you listen to music that way and get emotionally involved with it as a listener then it’ll change dramatically. It still does that for me and I wrote them! I guess that’s the beauty of music, it takes you on a journey.
With the electronica side of writing ‘Gravity’, were you looking with one eye to a live setting or living in the moment in the studio? Yeah being in the moment and letting the songs evolve, it becomes quite clear when writing the songs once you have the basic structure then you can incorporate more on that side of things, add a little more of an element that you feel might help the live performance side. It’s not something we think about when writing the music but as a song evolves, certain songs become clear that they are the ones you’re going to play live more than others but ultimately when writing it’s the song I’m focussed on, not the live set. I think now I’ve lived with it for a few months, I don’t have any fears about fitting any of these songs into the Bullet set. We’ve always been quite an eclectic rock/metal band, we’ve always incorporated some of the ballady stuff along with the thrashy, super heavy songs, solos and heavy grooves. I think it’s just what Bullet is and who we are, we’ve never been a one trick pony when it comes to writing songs and heavy music. We’ve done things a lot of bands wouldn’t do but I think that’s what makes us different from everyone else.
You’ve said the three years between ‘Venom’ and ‘Gravity’ haven’t been the easiest for you and you’ve poured your heart into the songs. So can we talk a bit about what lyrically, listeners can expect from this album? Lyrically, the album is very much about me. It’s not a place I’ve ever gone to in this much depth in the past, it’s a very personal record. I think that is what makes it very strong, it’s real, it’s coming from the heart and showing a side of me which I’ve never shown before which is a vulnerable, human, tender person as much as anyone else is because of things that happen at certain times in life. I deal with everything from the breakdown of my marriage, the snow pole effects of emotional roller coaster of life that comes with that. The worry, the fear and the anxiety, the sadness, the hate and all these profound emotions that snow ball into one big emotion. I slipped into a depression because of it, I didn’t want to be in a band anymore, I didn’t really want to eat at some points, so it was quite a big thing for me to put that into a song. I’ve never been a person that has been a fan of showing weakness, I don’t think I’ve ever even cried in front of my wife in like a decade. So, I don’t like to show that, not weak side but a more vulnerable side of a man. Because of what I am and what I’ve been and how I’ve had to fight to get what I’ve had, I don’t really have that side of me anymore, but to put it into song, I think people can really relate. I’m not the only one to go through these hard times by any means and I’m lucky I haven’t had it half as bad as some people and to have an outlet to put it into song. I wasn’t comfortable with it at the time even when some of the songs were finished but now I can look back on it and see this massively positive thing. I’ve almost fought it out myself by writing this record.
Almost a self-help therapy? Yeah exactly. I did go and see a couple of people and have talks and it snapped me out of the downer I was in. Thankfully I do have an outlet and massively positive outlook on life in general because of this band and I managed to turn it round without too much drama and self-destruction.
You worked with Carl Brown on the album, in what ways did he help shape it? He massively helped shape this album, we worked with him on ‘Venom’ and that’s where it started. He was there from day one, the sessions were at his home studio up in Chesterfield and he was there until about four weeks ago when we finished the mixing and mastering, so he’s been there more than the band was. He was there for every single note that was written, every lyric penned, he did all the demos, pre-production, he programmed all the electronica with myself. He had the knowledge of the technology whereas I don’t, I just had the imagination so yeah, he was massively on board. He knew what I wanted to achieve and was the fifth member really, he was there every single day and night until it was finished, so an integral part.
Jason Bowld has come on the scene, what has he brought to the band? Man, he is a force to be reckoned with. He’s the best drummer I’ve seen live, the best drummer I’ve ever played with. I’ve been around the block, around the world with the best metal bands there is so to have Jase in the band blows my mind. So, what he brings to Bullet is an intensity and a dynamic rhythm that we’ve never had before. On this record he’s not over playing anything, in fact he’s under playing. Purely the fact that it takes a better drummer to do that, to know what’s going on. Things that no one will ever hear or care about but being in the room with him writing the songs then seeing him learn and practice, seeing him doing what he’s doing is just mind blowing. He’s also got such a creative mind, he can play bass, guitar, he programmes electronic stuff, he’s a great singer. He reminds me of me really except he can crush me on drums! He’s just great, he has such a positive outlook on life and music, he’s changed this band in many ways.
In 2016 you toured performing ‘The Poison’ album in full, what was that like? It’s good, it’s become quite a thing to celebrate these anniversaries and for me an album like ‘The Poison’ is something to celebrate. It was almost a time in metal with a resurgence with a lot of other bands, it wasn’t just us. ‘The Poison’ came out at the exact right time when people and metal needed it and I think it was refreshing. Just the story of it is a bit of fairy tale. Four normal Welsh kids from the valleys, had a dream, no one helped, we did it on our own and achieved this great thing and made a record which literally made metal cool again. It basically set us on our path, that album, it just went berserk. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, I don’t really care, I’m just happy it did.
Download is of course coming up, what can we expect from that set? I think it’s just going to be a showcase of everything from day one for an hour. Those shows are always great to be a part of, we haven’t played Download since 2013 so it’s going to be amazing to go back. We are unfortunately going to be limited to what we can do because we’re not headlining so it isn’t a situation where we can dictate what we want to do and how we want to do it but saying that, we’re going to do what we can and go out and kick ass which is what we do best. Give people a showcase of Bullet For My Valentine from the last 15 years right up to now, obviously we’ll be playing ‘Over It’ and maybe a couple of other new ones in for fun to get people psyched up so it’s going to be good. We’ll go and do what we do, have fun and kick ass.
With festivals, perhaps Download, there must be ambitions on headlining it soon? Absolutely, not just Download. All the big Euro festivals, Rock AM Ring, Hellfest, Graspop etc. We’ve been around awhile, we have headlined some European and American festivals and arenas, so we have experience of it, we know how to do what we do so should the call come? We’re more than ready and willing and able to take the band to that kind of level. It’s not up to us I’m afraid but if the call comes then we are there. We’ve been saying it for awhile that we are ready, I think people know that, I just think the promoters and people that book these festivals are just a bit scared to put on a, not a less established act because I don’t think that’s fair on Bullet really, but not your regular five or six bands that seem to do the circuit every two years and get the same thing. Which is not their fault, if you get offered it, of course you’re going to do it but I think bands are ready for a change and I think the crowd is too. I think a lot of people are getting that same vibe that there needs to be more of a broader spectrum of headliners in the next couple of years.
What else does 2018 bring for Bullet For My Valentine? Touring! We’ve got our tours booked up and scheduled right up to Christmas and we’re already looking to 2019 and getting shows and venues secured for that. Releasing more online content and being as busy as possible.
When and how did you first get into acting? Well I always like to say acting got into me. I identified being compelled to it. Basically starting from reading aloud in class for my teacher. Who would ask me to do it, because I can read really well. So my first public performance was reading Dr Seuss out loud for the class and the assistant principal. So that’s where it all started! Then I just found a place for it. Acting wise, I was just always compelled to do it. There’s a community of people, to hang out with. Who were accepting, and sort of crazy like me.
What actors influenced you growing up, and why? Well first of all I’d have to say Sidney Poitier because he was the primary African actor that I compared my talent against. Especially in A Raisin in the Sun. I did a scene from that film to get accepted into the New York school of arts. I had done a scene from it in my acting class as a junior. Even though I wasn’t playing Walter Lee. I had an outer body experience, and that was the first time that everyone could really identify that I could do drama really well. Sydney was a lead in A Raisin in the Sun. So he, and then Howard E. Rollins Jr., which a lot of people don’t know. Howard E. Rollins Jr. from Ragtime, A Soldier's Story, and eventually, In the Heat of the Night on television, which is his finest work. Then Denzel comes after that. I was introduced to Denzel Washington in that film A Soldier's Story, where Howard E. Rollins Jr. was the lead.
What was your first major job role as an actor, and what was that experience like? My first major acting job where people knew me on an international level, would be The Wire. For me it was sort of a coming home. I knew most of those actors, as a lot of them were working actors in New York who did off broadway plays, and things of that nature. For instance, I had done a reading a year prior to getting the role with Idris Elba. After we did the reading, he told me that I could very easily be on The Wire. I was like “No man, they ain’t going to hire me!” I was clean shaven, so I was saying “I look too much like a cop, they ain’t going to hire me!” Then a year later I walked onto that set. I call him the profit. He was the reason, as he told me I could have it. I had a relationship with Wendell Pierce already, as we had done a short film together, for a buddy of mine Booker T. Mattison. I knew Michael K from so many auditions. I knew Andre from the theatre and auditions. I knew Sonja Sohn already. I knew a lot of people, so yeah, it was like coming home in a way.
What was the most challenging episode of the show for you to work on, and why? The episode where I said I can’t be in the gang anymore. I don’t know if it was challenging, as that’s what I’m drawn to. So I dug it, but I just wanted to make sure that it was dripping with authenticity. I wanted everyone to understand that this man could have a real change of heart, that was that profound. The main thing was that they believed the authenticity of the transformation.
What did you find rewarding about the story arc of Tyreese in The Walking Dead? The compassion of the man. The duality of strength and vulnerability inside a warm body. Especially as an African American male. Considering that most of the time we are one and two dimensional. So to play this complex guy, it was just hats off to the whole team. Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple, Greg Nicotero and many more. They gave me a real complex role to play. It was just a gut wrenching, powerful journey, and I’m very proud that I was able to play that role.
Can you tell us a bit about what those locations/sets were actually like to work on? It’s hot! Really hot, and you just keep saying “it’s hot!” all day long. As it’s that kind of heat that you can’t stop complaining about. It’s fun because you are working with some type a personalities. Everyone is smart, clever, and passionate. It’s a great mixing pot. There was a lot of verbal jousting going on. Everybody is verbally armed to mess with each other in a fun way. It was a lot of fun. It was a place where everyone was really encouraging if you have a personal issue. You always had an ear, there was always someone you could walk to the end of the road with, and talk to about what you’re going through. It was that kind of environment. It was a beautiful gig. They don’t come a dime a dozon. It was a place where you wanted to go to work. You don’t feel like you’re working your ass off.
So you are currently playing Klyden in The Orville! What attracted you to the part? Yeah, well first of all. Seth MacFarlane. That’s the bottom line. I was introduced to the whole deal with an auditon for Bortus, my mate. Then I tested for it, and of course the incomparable Peter Macon got the part. However, they could not find Klyden. Seth MacFarlane in his infinite wisdom, said “Get Chad L. Coleman, and make sure that he is a series regular. We want him” so I came back, there was no auditioning for Klyden, and I got the part. I’m a huge fan of what Seth MacFarlane does, I think he is a master at it. The poking of culture, and icons. I love doing that stuff. I am a fan of dark humour, that’s smart. I’m also a fan of ratboy humour. I’m a fan of a guy who can hit you from five different angles, and all of them are valid. Whether you like it or not.
Can you tell us a bit about the make up session that you have to do for this character? Yeah man, I mean re-visiting the Walking Dead. It’s KNB EFX, that’s Greg Nicotero’s company with Howard Berger. They did the work over here. These guys are at the top of their game. They fashioned something that only has me in that chair for no longer than an hour and ten minutes. Because the head is a hood, like you’re putting on a hoody. Once you get that down, the face is like you’re putting on a face mask at a masquerade party. That’s the face. Then the only thing they have to do is attach the chin, and the painting part. They prepaint most of it, so it’s just going over it, and refining it. They’ve got it down to a science. It’s very comfortable, you’ve just got a nerf football wrapped around your head. They cut the ears open so you can hear. It’s not really that hot, because the material absorbs the sweat. The mouth is free, so I can eat! My eyes are there, so part of my face is expressive. It’s easy to communicate.
For readers that haven't seen the show just yet, why should they watch it, and what can they can expect? Sure, very few shows are the hybrid of being funny, and serious at the same time. Each episode stands alone. Harking back to the days when you watched TV, and you didn’t have to watch the whole thing. You could watch each episode, and understand it. It’s clever, it’s funny. If you love special effects, and aliens! Obviously if you are a fan of Star Trek, then you’re going to be a fan of this. However, for a new fan. I can only tell you that it’s like being at a arcade. You are going to be stimulated on so many levels. You are definitely going to laugh, feel, think. It’s like addressing social issues through this format. If you take the time to watch it, you’ll see the show address social issues in a format that gives it a softer landing than what we are dealing with on the news. Outlets like that.
What has it been like to play Z in It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia? One of the most gratifying experiences of my life. I love him. Listen, he is under-represented in American television! He must be seen, and felt, and heard. It’s a pleasure playing this dude. He has a lot of heart. He is who he is, and he comes from where he comes from. He is quite proud of it. He is making his way through the world. Those guys are amazing, and I love them dearly. When I first met them, I booked a pilot for a new show. This is so funny, it was called Boldly Going Nowhere, it was going to be a space ship comedy back in 09 for Fox, and it didn’t go. It was Charlie and the boys, this was going to be their network shot. It didn’t go, but that’s when I met them. They were surprised that I was funny, because they only knew me from The Wire. Charlie took a chance. I’ll never forget going through the whole testing process. Because I had never tested before. With The Wire I just auditioned and HBO said yes. So going through the testing process. Those guys were fans, encouraging, and they cheered me on. In the end, I got the part. It’s a great show, and it’s ahead of its time. That relationship to this day lives on, and they always have me back.
What else can we expect to see from Chad L. Coleman in 2018? I’m developing three projects. Right now there’s a web series, basically it takes from the Cutty character in The Wire, and we’re going straight to the hood, with real life Cutty and the kids. The way it’s designed, is that it has an educational plus to it. You could be in Peru, and if you logged in, you could donate money to this show, which supports these kids, and help them further their education. That’s exciting. I also have two shows that I’m pitching to Shudder. Which is a division of AMC. These are two really dope shows, and I’m excited about the potential of being an executive producer on two shows. That’s exciting.
When and how did you first get into writing? I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember. Like Kiko, I have social anxiety and have been living with it since I was young. It’s always been hard for me to make friends, and I think in a lot of ways writing was my escape. Everything I needed I could find in a story friends, dreams, adventure, love. And even if it wasn’t real, it felt real when I needed it the most. Writing has always been an outlet for me it’s helped me survive a lot. But I didn’t start taking it seriously as a career possibility until I was in my early twenties, which is when I started querying agents.
Growing up, which authors influenced you the most, and why? Philip Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS was the first series that truly swept me away into another world, and I’ll never forget what that experience felt like. It was everything I wanted in a story, and it made me want to create worlds and characters that would one day do the same for someone else.
What was your first major project as a writer? STARFISH is my debut novel, so I think the experience still feels fairly new. For me, there’s this unexplainable mix of joy and terror that never seems to go away. There are so many ups and downs in publishing, and sometimes they happen all at once. In the last six months I’ve experienced some of the greatest highlights of my life, but also some of the worst anxiety too. In some ways, I think it’s prepared me a bit more for future books. I’m a lot more conscious of what it means to protect my heart and separate author me from real me.
So, how did the initial idea for Starfish come together? STARFISH is very much the book I needed most when I was a teen. This story deals with racism, abuse, and a toxic parent, so it might not be an easy read for some people. But I wrote it because this combination of experiences is something I’d never found in a book. And for me, one of the hardest parts about dealing with things like this is feeling like you’re the only person in the world going through it, and worrying that nobody will ever understand. I wrote STARFISH because I wanted people to know they aren’t alone, and to give them a little bit of light even when their world feels dark.
What did you find the most rewarding about writing for the character Kiko Himura? By far the most rewarding part of creating Kiko is hearing how many readers connect with her, particularly the ones who have parents similar to Kiko’s mom. It’s so easy for people who have never had this experience to brush off Kiko’s home life as “unrealistic” or a “caricature,” which can be really dismissive to people who do have parents like this. So every time I get an email from a reader who says the book helped them process their abuse, or gave them hope, that just means everything to me. It means Kiko’s story is reaching the people it was meant for, and I don’t think there’s a greater reward than knowing these readers are finally feeling seen.
Kiko has a lot of inner/family struggles to overcome throughout the book? So it must be quite exciting to have her look back and see how much she has changed? Yes, she definitely deals with a lot. I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I will say that Kiko’s story was always intended to be a hopeful one. And even though she will carry some of her scars with her for the rest of her life, she is a character who is constantly looking for a way out of the darkness. She’s resilient even when she doesn’t feel like it, and I hope some people will find her strength inspiring.
As a writer how do you go about approaching themes as intense as suicide? I went into every one of these scenes trying to be as sensitive as possible while also being honest about them and how they can make a person feel. I think there’s an important balance there. I don’t sugar-coat these experiences, particularly when it comes to the abuse, because this is a story that’s told from the perspective of someone still living with abuse and trying to escape a toxic environment. Some of the subjects were difficult to write about on a personal level, and I’m sure for some they’ll be difficult to read about, too. But this book came from a place of raw emotion and honesty, and I think that’s helped a lot of people connect with Kiko.
How did the book artwork come together, and what was it like to work on? Sarah Creech was the cover designer for both STARFISH and SUMMER BIRD BLUE, and I feel like the luckiest author ever to have such beautiful covers. She captured the feel of the books so perfectly. With STARFISH, Kiko is an artist, and many of the chapters end with a sentence or two about her art. They give a lot of insight into how she’s feeling, and in a lot of ways Kiko’s art is how she communicates. I really love that there’s an artistic vibe to the cover, because I feel like it matches the story in all the most important ways.
Okay! So how did the idea for Summer Bird Blue come together? I was sort of in a dark place when I came up with the idea for SUMMER BIRD BLUE. I was dealing with the loss of a pet and had all these big questions about death and grief, and I think I channelled that into a story. I also knew I wanted the book to be set in Hawaii, because it’s such a huge part of my own family. My dad and his family were born and raised there for generations, so they all speak Pidgin and have passed on certain parts of their culture to me. In some ways, I wrote this book to honor my grandparents and the summers I spent with them in Oahu.
Rumi Seto seems to be overcoming a different kind of grief in this book. However for you, how would you say the character compares overall to Kiko Himura? Rumi and Kiko both deal with messy family dynamics and have complicated relationships with their mothers, but I think that’s where the similarities end. I’m honestly not sure they would even be friends in real life. Kiko has a lot of anxieties and is terrified of upsetting people, whereas Rumi is quite blunt, unfiltered, and easily irritated. I don’t think they’d mesh well!
What was the most challenging part of this book to put together for you, and why? SUMMER BIRD BLUE takes place over a handful of months, which is obviously not long enough for some people to fully grieve. So I think the most challenging part was making sure Rumi’s growth and story arc felt authentic and satisfying, even though she is obviously going to have a much longer road ahead of her.
As an author, what does a standard day involve for you? I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, so it’s complete chaos, I’ll be honest. I try to write little bits here and there during the day, but my main writing time is from 7:30pm until about midnight if I have the willpower to stay awake that long. And probably half that time is spent replying to emails, to be fair. I am forever short on time!
How excited are you for your upcoming appearance at London Film & Comic Con, and what can attending fans expect? VERY! I’ve never been before, and my nerd heart definitely freaked out when I saw the guest list. But more than anything, I’m just excited to meet readers and hopefully sign some books. I’ve also heard a rumor that there may be samples of SUMMER BIRD BLUE available on the day, but that hasn’t been officially confirmed yet. Either way, YALC has some wonderful panels lined up, so I know readers will have an incredible time no matter what!
What else can we expect to see from Akemi Dawn Bowman in 2018? SUMMER BIRD BLUE hits shelves in the US on September 11th. I’m also working on my third YA contemporary right now, which is about a girl who runs away to join the circus. It doesn’t release until 2019, but I think I’ll get to share a few things (like the title!) sometime later this year.
Nigerian artist YCEE behind the international hit ‘Juice’ featuring Maleek Berry is now back with a new tune for summer ‘Your Love’. Having made waves across the global last year with ‘Juice’ securing over 20 million views and 12 million streams, landing a legendary BBC Maida Vale session and shutting down Jay Z’s Made in America festival, YCEE is now here to confess how unforgettable your love is! 2018 has already been a huge year for YCEE having sold out his first London headline show earlier this year that saw support from some of the biggest African music stars such as Ojuelegba and Come Closer singer Wizkid, Falz and UK’s very own Eugy to just last week performing at J Cole’s event in Nigeria. Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. YCEE cites Drake, Kanye West and Lil Wayne as musical influences. YCEE had his first break in 2012 when he signed to Tinny Entertainment. His first single ‘Smile on Me’ was released later that year and was followed by two more singles ‘Pass Me’ and ‘Amen’ in 2013. The hits kept coming and in 2015 YCEE released ‘Condo’ featuring Afro-Dancehall star Patoranking. The chart-topping releases earned YCEE numerous nominations at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards, including; All Africa Music Awards and the MTV Africa Music Awards. He picked the “Rookie of the Year” award at the 2015 edition of Headies (one of the biggest award ceremonies in Nigeria). He also earned nominations in the “best collaboration of the year” and “best music video of the year” categories at the 2015 Nigeria Entertainment Awards. Last year, he won the best African music hip-hop artist at the AFRIMA’s - there is no stopping him!
With hits such as ‘Jagaban’ featuring Olamide and ‘Omo Alhaji’ racking up millions of views on YouTube, there really is nobody ‘badder than’ him! In 2017, he released his debut EP ‘The First Wave’ and received rave reviews. Having already received support from some of the finest tastemakers across the world for his latest tune ‘Say Bye Bye’ such as Julie Adenuga, DJ Semtex, DJ Edu, DJ Target and Afro B ‘Your Love’ is set to prove just how YCEE has too much juice, too much sauce!
18-year old Brighton beauty Libby Whitehouse is set to release her new single ‘Cut It Off’, featuring stunning vocals, perfect for radio hooks and a remix to kill the dancefloor. Libby describes ‘Cut It Off’ as "Looking back on a situation that once really hurt you and mocking it, or knowing what you need to do if that situation happens again...which is to cut it off and know your worth. I’m all about girl power and the message that girls shouldn't take sh*t from anyone!" Though only 17, Libby released three singles in 2017, ‘Hands on Me’, ‘Recipe’ and ‘What I Want’, gaining her the attention of The Great Escape, I Luv Live, and fashion brand Pretty Little Thing. ‘Cut It Off’ will be followed by a much anticipated EP, due for release in September 2018. Libby attends the prestigious BIMM college, which boasts alumni such as James Bay, Izzy Bizu and Tom Odell. Her achievements in 2017 prove she is well on her way to putting her name alongside these great artists. With landing a spot in the Top 30 in the ‘Spotify UK Viral Chart’, to Number 1 and 2 in the Brighton Spotify chart for sixty consecutive days it is clear big things are on the way for this singersongwriter. Her growing fanbase agree; in October 2017 she was the most streamed artist in Brighton. Libby Whitehouse
Libby kicked off 2018 with a performance at I Luv Live at Zigfrid Von Underbelly in London and is booked to perform at alternative Great Escape 2018 on Thursday May 17th. More shows are planned for the summer, keep checking her social media for the latest updates.
Dirty Freud, “the unruly prince of electronica and the bastard son of electro bass music” is releasing his latest EP ‘Boxing with God’ (Keep It Dirty Records). The 5-track release features collaborations with Fullmarx, Salio and Bradley Lynch. “’Boxing with God’ feels like a continuation of the ‘Agenda’ EP, released in 2014. Like then, I’ll be transcribing more of my travels. I’ve kept many journals throughout the ages; some of them are falling to pieces, but time always brings decay, so I had to record them somehow. We all try to leave a legacy on the earth”. Dirty Freud Dirty Freud has enjoyed multiple playlists on BBC Radio 6 Music, BBC 1Xtra, Manchester BBC Introducing and Rinse FM and the UK based artist and producer’s previous EP ‘Dirty Deeds’ reached top 10 in Beatport and Juno. He won Best New DJ and Best New Producer at Bass Movement Awards and was named in the top 3 at the awards ceremony for each category. Dirty Freud received excellent reviews from his performances at Bestival, Lovebox, Citadel, Beatherder and Soundwave and is supported by cuttingedge brands including Jagermeister, Dr Martens and Chunk Clothing. Dirty Freud
Dirty Freud’s writing and production talents are well documented. He published two tracks with BMG which were later used on soundbeds across daytime TV. He mixes and masters for a regular clientele, working with commercial artists such as Pixie Lott and Leeroy Thornhill.
Axel Jansson ‘Hopeless Ever After’ 4th May Since performing at Glastonbury last year, Axel Jansson, the London via Sweden singer/guitarist/songwriter will be releasing his 4th single ‘Hopeless Ever After’ on independent label All Out Music (distributed through Absolute). The summer promises to be a busy one with a tour of food festivals, support slots for Top Loader and The Hoosiers and London shows filling his diary. ‘Hopeless Ever After’ perfectly showcases Axel’s gravelly voice and knack of writing hook heavy melodies which will be repeating in your head for days. Axel says “Despite its title this is actually an up-beat song in conversation with yourself - it explores those moments in life when your private inner voice starts to question what’s going on – is this it?” Axel attended the prestigious BIMM college in London which led him to meet his producer and later his manager. His first gig with a band was supporting Turin Breaks, and they were soon selected to play the Indie Week Europe Festival and the global music event Midem in Cannes. In the Autumn of that year Axel took to the road with The Coffee House Sessions which travelled through 10 UK cities and 24 University coffee lounges over a two week period. In 2016 Axel released his debut single, ‘Shine’ – which attracted attention from The Metro, The Mirror, The Sun and the Huffington Post. In addition to a run of headline shows in 2017, Axel spent the summer performing at festivals including two sets at Glastonbury and a series of gigs on the Foodies Festival circuit. If you’d like to see Axel perform this summer, here are his current dates: 1st June, The Junction Kent | 23rd June, Birmingham Foodies Festival | 13th July Cheshire Foodies Festival | 5th August, Edinburgh Foodies Festival. ‘Hopeless Ever After’ will be followed by two more singles and the much anticipated debut album, due for release autumn 2018.
When and how did you first get into acting? I've always loved the stage. I first caught the acting bug on holiday as a kid with my parents. They'd taken me to Universal Studios in California, where there was a chance to see a mock star trek episode starring members of the audience. I was chosen to play Captain Kirk so there I was: 5 years old, blonde hair, blue eyes in a costume four sizes too big for me hurtling around the bridge of the Enterprise as we were attacked by Klingons! From then on it was an inevitable conclusion - with a brief pause for a computer science degree!
What was your first major job role, and what do you remember the most from this experience? My first part out of drama school was playing Lennox in a very low budget, fringe production of Macbeth. Our costumes consisted of long sleeve t-shirts, fake leather tunics and distressed primark tracksuit bottoms! Having said this, it was a fantastic production and I met one of my closest friends during this. She recently got married and I was lucky enough to be one of her bridesmaids!
So what attracted you to the part of Libertus Ostium in Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV? The initial contact was actually very low key. The project had a codename and even the company involved was kept secret at the early stages. It was only as the casting process progressed that I found out that it was Square Enix and, later still, that it was Final Fantasy. This was a dream come true. I'm a big gamer and have played a lot of the Final Fantasy series. To be a part of such a epic series is a real honour. As for the role of Libertus, I really loved his character arc. He starts the film as one of the heroic defenders of the city, has a dramatic fall from grace but earns his redemption by the end.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from working on the film itself? Tokyo was a real high point. We were fortunate enough to be flown out to Japan to do the last block of filming. As a massive geek, this was a fantastic experience. We were shown round the development studios and got the opportunity to watch the developers work on both Kingsglaive and Final Fantasy XV. Besides that, my best memories are all of the cast as a whole. We were a very close cast with a proper â€œwork hard, play hardâ€? attitude which would often lead to practical jokes. My favourite memory is waiting with Will Bowden for a scene to be setup, noticing that the real time render was still running and starting a dance off between two Lucian soldiers!
What was Takeshi Nozue like to work with, and how did he push you as an actor? Takeshi was a great director to work with. He always had a very clear vision as to what he wanted the scene to look like but still gave the actors room to work with the character, experiment and to put their own stamp on each scene. It was a wonderful experience because it truly felt collaborative and gave each of us a real sense that we'd contributed to the final piece. I must admit though, I did have quite a major fan boy moment when I realised that the director of Advent Children was going to be directing me!
You were also a part of Final Fantasy XV: Comrades! So what was that like, and how did it compare to what you did on Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV? Comrades was very different. For Kingsglaive I did every part of the character: facial scan, acting and voice. For Comrades, I only provided the voice which is a very different process. While filming Kingsglaive we'd have the full script and be working on full scenes with all the relevant cast members, much more like rehearsing a play, meaning that when I went in to rerecord the lines for the film I already knew the emotional levels, the context and the expected delivery as well as being able to see the recorded, and often fully rendered, footage. For Comrades, as with most voice over work, I only had my lines with no other information. Whilst recording, we would discuss the context of the line but this all makes for a very different approach. One benefit to this is that you can be much freer with the performance. With the Kingsglaive voice recordings, we were often just repeating and copying the performances we gave on set whereas Comrades was a blank slate for us to experiment with. The other major difference was the time it took. Kingsglaive filmed over a period of around nine months, often in week blocks spread throughout that time. Comrades a single four hour recording session. It was over so quickly! I am very pleased with how Comrades turned out and the fan reaction has been excellent towards the expansion. I've been playing it since release and there's still new content to find, new missions, new characters. Square Enix's support of this game has been incredible!
We must ask. Who is your most favourite character from the Final Fantasy world, and why? I'm a big fan of FFVII. It was my first Final Fantasy game and, as with a lot of people, your first game is often your favourite. Also, I'm British and we're the archetypal bad guy, so it has to be the One Winged Angel, Sephiroth.
What's the hardest part about being an actor? The hardest part is the uncertainty. You never know when or where the next job is going to come from. Often actors will work multiple non-acting jobs to support themselves through their careers. You also have to have a very thick skin from the audition rejections to critics' comments on performances, you are constantly being judged on your skill and talent and you have to be able to divorce yourself from this otherwise it will crush you.
Alternatively, what's the most rewarding part? I love my career. I was a computer programmer (and still am!) before moving in to acting and I wouldn't change anything. I love the freedom of performing. Every job you're playing a different role, with different intentions and outlooks on life. In one you're a hardened special forces soldier and the next you're a scared kid charged with robbery. The possibilities are endless. The other thing I love is the effect we can have on people. In theatre, it can be instantaneous. You're performing a scene and you can feel the audience's energy right there with you, hanging on every word, and these performances stay with people. Theatre can be a very powerful medium because of the connections it allows. With things like Final Fantasy, it's often through social media or conventions. Meeting the fans, hearing their stories, hearing what they have been through and how this thing you're involved in has helped them deal with some very serious matters is really humbling. The fans are the lifeblood of this industry. Without them, there wouldn't be any point in doing this job.
What's 616 like to work on, and for those that haven't seen it just yet, why should they check it out? That was a fun weekend. We had rehearsed in the couple of weeks before the shoot and had learnt a number of fight routines. On the weekend of the shoot, we traipsed off to Epping Forest and proceeded to hack our way around the forest armed with swords and shields! It's an interesting concept. 616 is the original Number of the Beast and the premise is that in the dark ages, a spell was used to imprison the demonic powers. The spell was interrupted and only partially worked scattering the evil into 616 pieces. The knights then had to track down the pieces. As far as I know the episode I am in is still in post production, but keep an eye out for it. The fight sequences are excellent!
What else can we expect to see from Liam Mulvey in 2018? I want to get back on the stage this year. I've not done any theatre in a while and I miss it! Nothing concrete at this stage but there are some potential projects in the pipeline. As with all actors though, anything could happen!
Turbowolf - The Free Life If Turbowolf does anything consistently it’s keeping their listeners guessing. Looking for a sharp left turn is nothing new for them, especially with their latest release, ‘The Free Life.’ Their glam punk attitude paired with thick riffs will instantly get stuck in your head, and there’s a little bit of synths and glitch noises sprinkled in for good measure. This record is overwhelming in the best way possible. I can barely tell what any of their lyrics are about, they seem mystical and fantastic I think, but I don’t care; the vocalist is absolutely manic and the guitars make me want to drive fast and reckless. (don’t do that though, always drive safe kids) Frontman, Chris Georgiadis’s vocals could fit alongside the best of 70s and 80s arena rock vocalists but putting them in the context of a much newer sounding band gives that vocal style a whole new life. The guitar work that straddles the line between elements of noise rock and a pop sensibility that begs to be remembered, and does a great job of staying memorable. The guitar and bass riffs are reminiscent of the likes of Queens of the Stone Age or Death From Above 1979 but a little more minded for a younger crowds ears. Structurally this band doesn’t play it safe either; the title track being a roughly 6 minute song has an accompanying music video that I can’t go into detail describing but it absolutely deserves 6 minutes of your time. Overall with this band and on this record they are really refreshing and there’s really something for everyone who is a rock music fan in any shape or form. They are encompassing so many elements of different genres that aren’t expected to work well together and they make it seem so natural. MC
Palm Reader - Braille Not to bring down some other bands in metalcore and post hardcore that may do this, but kudos to Palm Reader for actually taking the time to properly write a big chorus and not relying on pop music conventions like programmed drums, washy synth noise, or R&B style clean vocals. They wrote big songs that are heavy and don’t need any compromise to get your attention. There is absolutely no slack on this record, not a single corner cut. Every moment is packed with energy. The record opens with a heavy hitting track, ‘Like A Wave’ that is structurally reminiscent of metalcore in the style of Every Time I Die and Norma Jean but a little darker; Palm Reader puts their own flavour into it, one that encompasses a dark and mysterious brooding type of mood. The band isn’t all snarls like one would expect a heavy band like them to be, they really work to express a full dynamic emotion across this record. The guitars hold back in some moments; like in ‘Coalesce’ where huge and heavy choruses are broken up by soft, reverb laden guitars that are screamed over before building back up again. That’s just one example, you really need to pick up this record to feel just how it flows together so beautifully. ‘Braille’, besides being a terribly clever album name for this band, is an invigorating step for the state of metalcore and post hardcore style music. MC
Parkway Drive - Reverence Parkway Drive’s latest release opens with a radio effected monologue, that is answered by harsh vocals and weirdly prominent synths. Weird in a good way; the synths here are refreshing as they aren’t being used as a washy background noise to add pop sensibility, which has become a staple with this genre, but instead they write complimentary riffs to the guitar work. Parkway seems to have outgrown their metalcore past and are reaching for straight pop metal. They played this record safe; often structuring the songs on this record similar to how typical pop metal acts structure their songs. However they remained ambitious in creating big choruses and powerful hooks. Lyrically, this record goes back and forth between angst and anguish. There are lyrics about struggling with god and the concept of death. Overall, this record is a bit of a departure from their “core” roots and much more embracing of pop metal and different emotions than those they have explored before. MC
Wheel - The Divide (EP) Wheel’s debut release is a snappy little EP called ‘The Divide.’ It employs classic elements of hard rock and metal while sprinkling in acoustic guitars and a string section here and there. They make use of building tension in their songs to keep your ear following the yearning lyrics. Wheel calls back to similar hard rock bands like Shinedown and Breaking Benjamin and vocally leave an impression similar to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. In three songs, Wheel covers their bases of letting a new listener know what all they’re getting into, a few different riff styles, some heavy emotions, and big, building crescendos. MC
Sick N' Beautiful - Element of Sex Pop-industrial act Sick N’ Beautiful’s new record, ‘Element of Sex’ attempts to employ elements of electronic elements, pop hooks, and metal riffs. For the most part they hit the targets they are aiming for but it risks getting muddled down with too many conflicting elements at times in the record, or sounding repetitive at other times. The guitar work and vocals are fantastic in their respective moments to shine across this record. The vocals snarl similarly to the likes of Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless with a touch of something more manic about her voice. Their dance/club influence reminds me of Mindless Self Indulgence but a little more chaotic. Much like everything else about this band, the lyrics sound like they are coming from a different planet too. Overall, their energy comes across well on this record despite being a bit chaotic. MC
Vitruvia - Reborn (EP) Breakout Pennsylvania, post-hardcore outfit, Vitruvia, call back to pop punk and easycore roots on their debut EP, ‘Reborn.’ Right from the start of the EP, the band conjures up a very dark and heavy mood, the instrumentation and specifically the guitars work to build this. As the tracks progress the mood is broken up with vocals that are similar to more traditional pop punk vocals of the late 90s/early 00s. This adds a little more texture to their sound and breaks up the expectation you would have going in to listening to a post-hardcore record like this. The EP concludes with a more solemn track that takes the listener through a big crescendo and meaningful lyrics. MC
Thirty Seconds To Mars - America The wait is finally over as Thirty Seconds to Mars have dropped their fifth studio album ‘America’. Was it worth the wait? Well if you have heard the recent singles ‘Walk on Water’ and ‘Dangerous Night’ you already know the answer to that. It has been five years since the release of ‘Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams’, it is impossible to imagine how they would be able come back with tracks bigger than ‘Up In The Air’ or ‘City of Angels’. But, they have returned superior than ever, picking up a couple of popular artists on the way - singer Halsey and rapper ASAP Rocky who both feature on the album. ‘America’ is everything and nothing you’d expect from these musical masterminds. The electronic heavy track ‘Rescue Me’ proves this is the most versatile and radio friendly album they have ever produced – full of synths and light on the guitar riffs. Don’t panic though they have stayed true to their atmospheric rock roots with tracks like ‘Dangerous Night’ and ‘Walk on Water’. Just like the global campaign of numerous album covers they have created for the album, every single song is individual. Listening to ‘America’ is like experiencing a jolt of a bolt of lightning, which leaves you supersonic and rather confused. Is there anything Jared Leto can’t do? SC
Shields - Life In Exile UK metalcore outfit Shields found themselves in a tremendously difficult position at the start of this year with the passing of their guitarist George Christie. It is a tremendous credit to them that they have continued on, and three months later released their first full length release, ‘Life In Exile’. Shields' brand of metal, for those not familiar sits primarily in the metalcore world with the occasional foray into Thy Art Is Murder style territory, but for the most part sits in the realm occupied by bands like While She Sleeps and Architects. This is both the album's strength and its weakness; ‘Life In Exile’ is a finely crafted, well performed, technically very competent set of songs, but without the true moments of the highest quality required to elevate them out of the pack of the UK's somewhat congested metalcore scene to a level where they might challenge those like Architects at the top of the pile. That's not to say there aren't things to enjoy about ‘Life In Exile’; ‘It's Killing Me’ strikes the right balance between the harsh and clean vocals and has a big chorus. This is a track that could easily become one of the bands' anthems live, if it hasn't already. ‘Mother’, which features Silent Screams vocalist Joel Heywood on a guest appearance has some brutal riffs and Joel's vocals add weight to what is arguably the album's most aggressive and punishing song. So Shields quite clearly do have talent, and are capable of putting together good songs. Unfortunately away from the two tracks mentioned, many songs on the rest of the album blur into one another, even after several listens, and ultimately just don't do enough to stand out. There are a couple of attempts to branch out and do things a little differently, such as in the album closing ‘N35.E138’ into ‘Aokigahara’ track pair, but even this fades away after a promising start. Those who really enjoy their metalcore will still find things to enjoy here, but it may have limited appeal beyond that. JG
Anthrax - Kings Among Scotland (Live) When you've been together as a band for almost forty years, no-one would begrudge Anthrax if they were slowing down a touch. Their brand new live album, ‘Kings Among Scotland’, shows that they are doing anything but, and are as vibrant and full of life and heavy metal thunder as they've ever been. Recorded at Glasgow's Barrowlands, ‘Kings Among Scotland’ is split into two sets - one with a couple of classics and some of their new material from the last couple of albums, and the second, their classic ‘Among The Living’ album in full. Anyone thinking of skipping straight to the ‘Among The Living’ part would be making a very poor decision, as the first half is equally enjoyable and deserving of listener attention. As far as an opening salvo goes, ‘A.I.R’ into ‘Madhouse’ is pretty special, with the whole band and Joey Belladonna in particular sounding on top form while the crowd can be heard going suitably bananas. The newer songs like ‘For All Kings' ‘Evil Twin’ and ‘Breathing Lightning’ and the always huge sounding ‘Fight 'Em Til You Can't’ from ‘Worship Music’ are fully deserving of their inclusion alongside the older material, and showcase how Anthrax are still making great new songs to this day. Many fans of Anthrax old and new will undoubtedly want this album just for the latter half, and it's very understandable why that would be the case. For many, ‘Among The Living’ belongs in the same breath as ‘Master Of Puppets’, ‘Rust in Peace and ‘Reign In Blood’, the best work from this member of thrash's big four. Anyone who has seen Anthrax live at any point since 1987 is likely to have heard and seen the likes of the traditionally brilliant ‘Caught In A Mosh’, ‘Indians’ or ‘I Am The Law’, and here they sound as good as they ever have. For both the hardcore and many casual fans, the real treat will be the lesser played live songs such as ‘A Skeleton In The Closet’ or ‘Imitation Of Life’. Hearing them on ‘Kings Among Scotland’, one half wonders why they aren't wheeled out more often. The partial answer to this lies in the first half of this album - that Anthrax are still producing great new songs to this day, and there's only so many songs one can fit into a setlist. Overall, ‘Kings Among Scotland’ is a hugely enjoyable addition to the Anthrax discography, and would also serve as an excellent entry point to the band for fans who want a taste of both their greatest hits and what they sound like in 2018. On this evidence, they'll be going for many more years to come. JG
Underoath - Erase Me After eight years since the album ‘Ø (Disambiguation)’, Underoath have finally returned having evolved with their anticipated eighth album ‘Erase Me’. With help from multi-platinum producer Matt Squire who has worked with successful artists including Panic! At the Disco and Taking Back Sunday – it is no surprise that this was worth the wait. Founded in 1997 the Florida based metalcore band made a name for themselves in the genre with the success of albums like; ‘They're Only Chasing Safety’ back in 2004 whilst inspiring huge bands including Bring Me The Horizon. Although they have been quiet on the music front, Underoath’s popularity has not crumbled just yet with their dedicated fan base and the recent release of ‘Erase Me’, Underoath have proved themselves to be much more than just a straight edge metalcore band. They have advanced much like the genre itself – take the track ‘Wake Me’ for example which has anthemic vocals throughout backed with Christopher Dudley notable keyboard and synthesizer skills. Drummer and clean vocalist Aaron Gillespie features for the first time since the 2008 album ‘Lost in the Sound of Separation’. Making a huge impact on tracks like ‘ihateit’, Aarons’ emotive vocals are perfectly overlapped with Spencer Chamberlain’s aggressive tones. It may not be every old school Underoath fan’s ideal tracklist but, much like many bands in the genre they are shifting with the times having more of a focus on melodic chords and stronger clean vocals. ‘Erase Me’ has the potential to be the best comeback album you’ll ever hear. SC
Eva Plays Dead - The Fix (EP) “I don’t care about anything, I don’t care about anything” – are the lyrics repetitively sung with powerful attitude-fuelled vocals by Tiggy Dee in the track ‘Get Back’. ‘Get Back’ is the third track taken from Eva Plays Dead brand new EP ‘The Fix’. Based in Nottingham, Eva Plays Dead is made up of Vocalist Tiggy Dee, Guitarist Matt Gascoyne, Bassist Zach Shannon and Seb Boyse on drums. They are possibly the most talented female-fronted rock ‘n’ roll bands coming out of the UK at the moment. That’s not to say female fronted bands are not making a revival with the likes of Marmozets, PVRIS and Dream State. But, Eva Plays Dead bring back that classic dirty rock ‘n’ roll with their raucous sound, hard-hitting guitar riffs and feisty attitude throughout this five track EP. Are they this generations Joan Jett and The Blackhearts? Well it’s needless to say they are definitely on the right track. SC
Dream State - Recovery (EP) Dream State are taking the world by storm with the release of their contagious new EP ‘Recovery’. Gaining over 5 million views on youtube the bold track ‘White Lies’ kicks off the EP. Fast-paced guitar riffs fade in, having you hooked right from the intro. As the reckless tempo continues it successfully conveys the feeling of suffocation. It leaves you desperate to hear more of the brutality in lead singer CJ’s vocals. The whole EP is a journey of recovery from CJ’s personal experience, closing the EP is ‘New Waves’. Vocally it shows a softer side but ‘New Waves’ still has that empowering almost infectious sound with its bold choruses. The Welsh five-piece are unstoppable not only are they touring with Babymetal and As It Is this summer you can catch them at the UK’s biggest rock music festivals - Download & 2000 Trees. Forming in 2014 ‘Recovery’ reinstates what Dream State is truly capable of. It feels like the beginning of something huge. SC
Dead Is Forever - The Last Prologue (EP) Melodic metalcore act Dead is Forever brought the heat with their new five track EP ‘The Last Prologue’. While, yes, I am notorious for being largely a huge fan of the “core” genres, these guys also showcased a very well produced piece and also promise for a band that is only on their second release. ‘King With No Throne’ opens with an aural tone - one that radiates light and relief which I came to realise (as I was listening through the piece) is a very commonly used theme in this EP. I am quite fond of it as a way to balance the tracks from getting too sludgy, which in combination of the use of airy vocals is a home run for me. It can be hard to get through entire releases or even tracks if it sinks like an anchor in the sea, but these guys showed immense ability to be able to step back and balance when needed. ‘The Last Prologue’ became very obvious to me why they named the EP after this track. This track is quite contrasting between those airy, aural tones, and heavy riffs and vocals but they are blended with care and it’s very well done-- I have a feeling if it lacked that contrast the track would end up feeling very empty. ‘The End of Our Beginning’ was an extremely pleasant listen where only forty seconds ended up having vocals, and was moreover an instrumental with a radio sample monologue on the end of the human era on earth. I was not expecting the usage of a track for this kind of piece, but something about it was strangely AFI-esque to me and of course I can’t say no to that. Overall, this EP definitely got some raised eyebrows from me when I realised this is only their second release. This is an extremely well produced and different EP, which are two things that I wish I encountered more. Job well done! LD
The Wilde - Gunning For You Immediately with the beginning of ‘American Dream’ as the first track on The Wilde’s new album ‘Gunning For You’, I knew I was in for a treat. I was ready for some good old fashioned rock n’ roll, and I got it… but only three quarters of what I was hoping for. There were some really great aspects of this album, and for a debut album it actually hit most of my marks but I wish it had just given me a tiny bit more oomph. ‘Dead Man Walking’ kept my interest the most and I enjoyed for the most part all of the tracks but I found it hard to sit for the whole track. I found myself switching to the next track before one was over, and while I liked what I was listening to, it was hard to see it through. That being said, the production quality was impressive for these guys being relatively fresh and this being their first release. Their promise of rock n’ roll was definitely delivered upon.
LD Encoded - Psychosis (EP) There’s something strangely… Limp Bizkit-y about this album and even if my “Break Stuff” days are over (or at least I think they are), I was not going to pass up the chance to embrace this 90s progressive EP. While it reminisced of Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit, my two biggest guilty pleasures, I say ‘nay’ and move to destigmatize guilty pleasures - it was a dang pleasure! While I can’t say that the EP made any waves and brought anything particularly new to the table, I can’t complain that it made me smile and brought me back to my beginning days of ‘Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water’ (again, I am not embarrassed about this). For all those out there who share in this, this EP is the one for you. Although I wish it had ventured outside of the bounds of those already set by other bands, it was a damn good reminisce and I can’t dispute that. LD
Serenius - Metanoia (Single/short EP) As I clicked on the first track of this EP, ‘Enough’, I was expecting to be greeted with harsh breakdowns and riffs. Instead, I was greeted with the chilling and haunting story of a woman named Metanoia as an intro and then slowly dropped into the deep riffs I was expecting. However, there is something slightly pleasing about the surprise intro and I think it really played to their advantage to set themselves apart but also make the transition between the harsher verses and the intro. There were some frills guitar-wise, but I found that this track mostly embraced the deep melodic sound that was on the simpler side. Despite being on the simpler side though, the homage “less is more” rings true here. I have a feeling if there was anything more, I wouldn’t have liked it quite as much. The story of Metanoia continues as the outro which gives the track a good sense of closure. ‘The Demonic Trial’ has more of the harsh sound that I was expecting on the first track, but it is better as the second track anyways because it contrasts well and gives the listener a better scope of sound for these guys.
Since this EP not only tells a story with the musical style, it literally does tell a story and I like that the harsher, more driven sound of this track eludes to a twist in the story of Metanoia. Although in my personal opinion two songs for an EP is a bit short, the storyline to this is loud and clear which is why I think it works for me. Without the story, I would’ve liked more from these guys but I do like that between the two tracks there was a clear connection but also a big divide in styles that expressed their abilities. LD
Thumbhole Records - Tracks You Might Have Missed This twenty four track compilation from Thumbhole Records might seem like a long winded journey but it does in fact deliver what the title of the album suggests. The album opens with Semi-Pro’s ‘Sunny’, which of course resurged my love for nostalgic pop punk. Victory Kid’s ‘My World’ spun a ska twist on their verses that reminded me of 90s pop punk vocally - the perfect cocktail of poison for me, especially the ska part! Lately I’ve been digging more of the ska scene, and this track definitely will be a good addition to the car playlist. There were a few tracks more up the hardcore alley if you’re a fan of heavier set music, however unfortunately I found that the more I got into the depths of this album the more I felt like the tracks were just thrown into it and they weren’t selected for it. The majority of the tracks on this album were pop punk, and I think that had a large part in that feeling I had. Pop punk can get single toned, and monochromatic quickly and I think that’s exactly what happened here. That being said, that problem could easily be solved by not doing what I did and listening to each track one right after the other. LD
Big Stir Power Pop & More - The First Year compilation This CA concert series known for power pop and psychadelic rock have just released a new compilation CD off of Big Stir Records. ‘If The Shoe Fits’ particularly caught my interest with its driving vocals and old school, raw tone that is a refreshing breath of air from the mainstay of rock music. For the most part, I did enjoy this album. ‘Not In Love’ proposed a strangely familiar-Beatlesesque rhythm and sound which brought back a lot of my early days as a music lover, listening to my mother’s CDs in the car seat. Overall, I loved that this compilation breathed a breath of fresh air into my normal music load. I notoriously enjoy the “core” genres and pop punk with a twist but despite the fact that this is more like swing-rock and a gentle roll, it suited me just fine and I encourage everyone to give it a try even if you know it’s not your thing. LD
Frank Turner - Be More Kind Frank Tuner has returned with a brand new solo album ‘Be More Kind’, the follow up to 2015’s ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’. That was an album that generally received high praise from critics, although some said that the album was unoriginal compared to his earlier works. It left some people wondering if this album will be a return to form, or just another run of the mill copycat. The album opens with ‘Don’t Worry’, a folk come gospel crossover. The message of the song is clear in the lines “Don't worry if you don't know what to do, I don't know what I'm doing, no-one has a clue.” It seems like a fair reflection on modern society, in a day and age where everything is a mouse click away, and where most of us are in our own little bubbles, oblivious to what’s happening in the world around. ‘1933’ has a punk-ish feel to it, and keeps hammering the message of not knowing what’s going on anymore. The lyrics of this track have a much more overt political overtone, and are about how Britain and other countries have started to move towards a more right-wing approach to things, especially politics, and Frank likens it to Germany in 1933. He displays his clear disgust with the line “be suspicious of simple answers, that shit's for fascists and maybe teenagers.” The album moves at a brisk pace, each song having its own clear subject, usually either being about Frank’s personal demons or his political views. Perhaps the most powerfully written and performed is the title track ‘Be More Kind’. All you need to do is watch the news to see the inspiration behind the lyrics “In a world that has decided that it’s going to lose its mind, be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind.” ‘21st Century Survival Blues’ is another song seemingly inspired by watching the news, and it’s easy to see that in the lyrics. It’s certainly a grim look at the problems the world is currently facing, this song focuses mostly on man-made global warming. “It’s been quiet for far too long, and if I know human beings things are gonna go wrong”. It’s a bleak review of human nature with lines like “When the harsh winds blow and the world gets cold, you can't trust kindness and you can't eat gold”, The song reminds you that material things are fleeting, friends and family are all that matter in the end.
‘Blackout’ has a more up-beat tempo to it, with some nice synths in the background as Frank sings about the day the power runs out. This song was a stand out for me; all the musical elements combine fantastically with Frank’s thought-provoking lyrics to create a catchy song that deserves to be a chart topper. The final track on the album, ‘Get it Right’ is about redemption. Frank sings here about how he believes we will persevere and eventually “somehow someway, between life and death, we’ll find the time to get it right.” A more perfect way there could not have been to sign off an album that plumbs both the darkest depths of modern society, psychology and politics, and also the dizzying heights of mankind’s ability to be better than we have been, to forgive and hope and love. Any review of this album could be condensed into just two words - thought provoking. It’s such a dynamic, mercurial work of art, it seems to evolve and take on new meanings every time you listen to it. It’s certainly a far cry from the vapid, shallow songs one usually hears on the radio these days. Each song has an individual message, and each, though different, work together to build the overall theme of the album. Frank’s talent with lyric writing seems to be at its zenith; he had a lot to say when he made this album. He said it loud and clear. LS
The Hyena Kill - SPUN (EP) Manchester based rock duo The Hyena Kill has released a new EP, titled ‘Spun’. The opening track, ‘Exit Mask’, comes from a very dark place; a feeling which is complimented by Steven Dobb’s brutal screaming vocals. It’s enough to send a chill down your spine. It’s loud, and dirty, and its blend of rock and thrash is a very entertaining thing to listen to. The next track is short, but that doesn’t matter. ‘Panic Womb’ is 1 minute 20 seconds of pure raw passion and aggression. Despite its brevity, it’s easily the highlight of the album. You would be forgiven for thinking there were several more members of the band than just the two, such is the skill they display here. ‘Ribbons’ brings with it a welcome change of pace, it’s a calmer song with clean vocals in the opening, but about halfway through the aggressive rage of Dobb makes a return, matched with some truly outstanding drumming work of Lorna Blundell. ‘Pound of Flesh’ is where Blundell shows off just how accomplished a drummer she is. Her display alone makes the track worth listening to, even without Dobb also making his presence felt with his guttural screams. ‘Dare to Swim’ guest features Stefanie Mannaerts of Brutus, and continues the change in theme, with Dobbs adopting a more relaxed, haunting style to his vocals to great effect. You can really feel the emotion in his voice, it’s good to see that there is more to him than the raw aggression of the first few tracks. Overall, ‘Spun’ is a nice way to introduce someone to The Hyena Kill as it’s definitely some of their best work to date, it’s got a lot of variety to it while at the same time still showing the rage and passion that their fans have come to know and love about them. LS
Blake Jones & the Trike Shop - Make I can’t recall when I’ve listened to an album where I was truly split down the middle between love and hate. It’s as if someone has made audible marmite I’m torn between enjoying it and putting it in the bin and never listening to it again. Blake Jones and the Trike Shop is a masterpiece, art in its purest form should seperate and divide opinion and that’s what this album does very well. We begin with ‘Make A New Day’, a soft track with the vocals being the main attraction, however the chorus of “make a new day hey hey” sounds nasily and not thought out, almost as if it’s being thrown in just to be a little bit memorable. When we reach the verses the vocals suddenly sound like old style Kasabian and it seems to switch up a tempo and become bearable and more than that it’s enjoyable. It’s follow up ‘My Soft Rock Girlfriend’ is an all out pop anthem, it’s easy to pick up, smooth to go along with and after the first 30 seconds you’ll be in love with the cheesy style they’ve gone for on this track. It’s like they’ve taken inspiration from pop punk but it’s also kind of Beatles-esque. It’s a strange blend and works really well. One of the main moments on this album where I just have to put my foot down and say “bad” would be the instrumental track ‘Goldfinger’. I’ve listened to this nearly three minute noise machine at least five times and do not get it. It really takes away from the previous great tracks. As I said there are good and bad moments, one bad moment would be ‘Wind Blues’ which sounds like something Flight of the Conchords would have done, it has a very basic line and the opening pan flute accompanied “wind bluuuuues” will stay in my head until I die. In comparison with the funky ‘Take a Look at the Stars’ before it it just doesn’t stack up. It’s toe tappingly addictive and a genuinely fun song. ‘Make’ isn’t exactly the best album in the world but it’s definitely not the worst, it doesn’t want to be though. It wants to be in that middle crossover between excellent and alright, it doesn’t want for any attention. Some people might genuinely enjoy the way it combines certain genres together but for me half of it sounds like noise and the other sounds like beautiful harmonies. It’s all about perspective. RO
Hawthorne Heights - Bad Frequencies Emo rockers Hawthorne Heights are back for the first time in five years with a brand-new album! Yes, they are still a band. The album is called ‘Bad Frequencies’. It took the band over a year to put the album together. They did this throughout 2017, whilst also singing to their first label in some time, Pure Noise Records. I’n Gloom’ opens the album and it certainly does live up to its name. As frontman, JT Woodruff sings with a somewhat reflective tone in his voice, joined by some nice sounding background piano. This is before the whole band come in with an instant bang. It’s like they have never been away! It is clear from the off that they are out to make a statement with this album. The first song alone is very much a look back at times gone by and how quickly you move through life. As previously mentioned, the track certainly does live up to its title. It’s definitely a very gloomy start to the album. ‘Just Another Ghost’ takes everything up another notch, while at the same time keeps that nostalgic sound. Like ‘Crimson Sand’, this track definitely attracts more of the hardcore fans of the band. ‘Push me Away’ is a song filled with anger-fuelled tones, and one that deals with coming out as gay or bisexual. This is best shown on the chorus with the lines: “Push me away hide me in the closet if you’re afraid of who I am, who are you to push me away”. The song is raw, heavy, truthful and not to mention packed with emotion. It really taps in to that fear within many of us that we fear things that we do not understand and cannot control. There is a reason Hawthorne Heights were once called the “Kings of Emo.” It all comes down to tracks like ‘The Suicide Mile’. This track is a prime example as to why the band acquired that label in the first place. The lyrics deal with having thoughts of suicide: “spending sleepless nights with a loaded gun” and fighting your inner demons. In my opinion, the more hardcore fans of the band will really enjoy this track. It really shows the band going right back to their emo roots and revisiting their glory days.
Next, we have to get through the drum beat-heavy, pop punk sounds from ‘Straight Down the Line’. This track will go down very well with the Vans Warped Tour crowd. We then come to the final track on the album. ‘Pills’ is the perfect finish to this album. It’s another reflective track, yet it keeps the mid-tempo rock sound as we hear Woodruff telling us about the loss of someone close to him and how he will: “turn your pictures to ashes before I go”. Although it does end the album on a sad note, these kinds of tracks are essential as they are where Hawthorne Heights are at their best. They stick to what has worked for them for most of their career while still continuing to push themselves. ‘Bad Frequencies’ is a fitting album for Hawthorne Heights to make their over due return it’s an album that gives the hardcore fans some nostalgia and at the same time is introducing newer fans to the band and its current sound with the hooks and break downs. I think this album will divide the fan base some will love it others won’t. Hawthorne Heights are back though and they have laid all their cards on the table with ‘Bad Frequencies’, it’s not a fantastic album it is not an awful album it’s the album the band needed it to be to get to the next part of their career. LS
The Wonder Years – Sister Cities The Wonder Years, now veterans in the pop punk scene, have returned with an intriguing album – different from anything they’ve produced before. ‘Sister Cities’ tells some amazing stories, and like any Wonder Years record features some memorable numbers. ‘Raining in Kyoto’ begins with desperate Dan Campbell vocals before launching into the 2nd verse. An incredibly powerful opener, the chorus is especially bold discussing Soupy reflecting back on his relationship with his grandfather. It really sets the theme of the album, ending with a mash up of powerful instrumentals giving a dark feeling - a new sound. ‘Pyramids of Salt’ is arguably the best song on the record, with its beautifully put together keyboard background, with a perfect mix of soft and harsh vocals. This band really know how to write a chorus. “I drew a line in the sand, with these worthless fucking hands” is particularly memorable with the up-tempo drum pattern. The instrumental is controlled beautifully to let the lyrics and story take priority on the track. ‘It Must Get Lonely’ is a quieter calmer track, it keeps the flow of the album moving nicely. The second half of the song stands out with punchy vocals, and the background vocals is a very clever touch. The title track ‘Sister Cities’ is very similar to their previous works in style with its epic chorus, this was the first single from the album and it gathers hype for the record. Its infectious riff leaves you wanting to hear the rest of the album. ‘Flowers Where They Should Be’ is a very personal track, it's probably not a track that will connect much with fans. But in the context of the album it works, what is encouraging is their bold approach to trying to change and adapt their sound. ‘Sad & Sober’ is your classic Wonder Years track with a little piece of ‘The Upsides’ and ‘Suburbia’. Again their ability to create a brilliant chorus shines through, and the listener feels every single emotion from Dan Campbell.
‘We Look Like Lightning’ is quite an odd song and tells the story of all the plane journeys that the band take and the uncertainty and anxious feelings that comes with that. All those feelings are grouped before a huge outburst at the end of the track. ‘The Ghosts of Right Now’ is another highlight, with a skilled and frenetic riff, supported by an angry and storming vocal performance from Soupy. It's one of the faster tracks on the album and reminds me a lot of the band Creeper. ‘When The Blue Finally Came’ is a much more serene moody number with Brand New vibes. The echo on the vocals gives an eery theme. Penultimate track 'The Orange Grove' reminds me more of their recent works, with big riffs and fast paced drums, which almost seem to rush the vocals slightly, before it is saved by the bouncy chorus. The album closes with the excellent 'The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me' which is a composition with many different feelings and moments. From the storytelling beginning of the album to the middle section with a quite beautiful church bell like keyboard. It's a aculmination of all the feeling expressed through the album. The closing two minutes are incredibly emotive as Soupy octaves raise to a new level, the album closes with an amazing celebration of sound. JP
Penny Was Right - Dumb & Wild Many people this side of the Channel would draw a blank when trying to think of bands hailing from France. Gojira and Alcest are the only ones that spring to my mind. Penny Was Right may soon change that. The 5-piece band from Paris has already made a name for themselves with their debut album ‘Dumb & Wild’. The band was formed in 2013 by lead singer Dalia Al-Shahawi, and soon began touring France, garnering many positive reviews. The band say they draw their inspiration from geek and skateboarding culture, and once they finished touring they returned to the studio to leverage that inspiration into new music. In 2016 they released an EP called ‘We Were Kids’, an eclectic blend of punk rock and pop that is very reminiscent of bands like Blink 182, The Offspring, Rise Against and Zebrahead. Now, they’ve launched ‘Dumb & Wild’, their first full album. The album opens on the newest single from the album, ‘Animal Behaviour’. It’s got a nice, upbeat opening with the dual guitar strumming of Julian and Cara. The punk element shines through especially strong in this track, where the most stand-out parts are Dalia Al-Shahawi’s strong, punchy vocals during the chorus, and the guitar solo that ends the track. This was a very strong opening to the album. The album keeps up the quality and frenetic pace with the twin tracks ‘Memories’ and ‘Friendshit’, both tracks keep the quick tempo at their core, while telling emotional tales of dealing with relationship loss, one being about losing a lover, the other about losing a friend. The pair of songs both clock in at the 3 minute mark but manage to pack so much into those 180 seconds that it’s almost unbelievable.
“The whole band shines” The middle part of the album is where founder and lead singer Dalia Al-Shahawi really shines, in ‘How Long Will It Last’ and ‘Don’t Call Me Back’ she displays the full extent of her vocal talents. That’s not to say the band behind her don’t excel too, they do a consistently fantastic job of backing her up. Both songs mix up the pacing a little and stand out for that reason too. Unfortunately, as is often the case with foreign bands, some of the lyrics get a little lost in translation, but having said that, ‘Don’t Call Me Back’ could easily be released as a single. The next couple of songs are ‘Stupid Addiction’ and ‘Please Stay’, they are good enough tracks, there is nothing about them that really stands out, but they help keep the album moving along quite nicely ‘You Ain’t Got Me’ feels a lot more pop-like in its opening; it sounded like something New Found Glory might have put together. It’s not a bad song by any means, but it somehow feels like it was just there to make up the numbers. It’s got a nice catchy beat, but I can’t quite shake the feeling it was nothing more than a filler track. As we move into the latter stages of the album, the curiously titled ‘Hangover Gangbang’ greets us with a sound that is the dictionary definition of pop punk. It opens with some nice gang vocals and a smooth bass line, while still keeping that fast-paced tempo. Almost every pop punk album I’ve ever listened to has had at least one song which is about the consequences of drinking too much at a party, so this track feels right at home on this album. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about this track, but it is an amusing listen. The final track, ‘Darkside of Humanity’, changes the tone and feel of the album drastically for about 2 minutes, before it switches back to the punk based sound you’ve become used to by this point. The whole band shines through here and gel together to create a very memorable sound. Dalia once again provides outstanding vocals; you can feel the emotions poured into this track. It closes out the album in a very strong way. Overall ‘Dumb & Wild’ is a good album, it has a very strong opening and ending it’s just the middle part of the album that lets the high stranded drop a few notches. Dalia Al-Shahawi really does shine on this album she has an amazing voice and you feel every emotion she puts into the lyrics. I really do believe if the band can continue to build on their early success Penny was Right can well be one of the new breed of pop punk bands to have one hell of a career. LS
Aspen Way - Self-Titled (EP) Aspen Way is a metalcore, djent, punk band from Northern California. They have since released an EP recently, that although only six tracks long, provides so much introspection into the current world we live in today. From the very beginning of the EP, we get an opening track called ‘Repent’, in which its echoing the Lords daily prayer. It almost seems as if this beginning track is the prelude of the tracks that follow, as its asking to forgive humans for all the sins they have caused and continue to do so now as we speak. We then jump into ‘Streets’, though not as engaging as the rest of songs instrumentally on this EP, lyrically it carries a poignant message on gang violence in America and for that deserves a place on this EP. After this heavy track, we get into another emotionally lyrical track ‘Lost and Forgotten’ which talks about the mistreatment of veterans. There are so many interesting uses of guitar and percussive elements in this track that is sure to keep a listener from skipping it. Unlike the first song there is so much body to this one, as there is a lot going on instrumentally, but in a crafty and creative way. ‘One You Could Save’ deserves its own paragraph for so many reasons. Besides its deep resonance and meaning behind young adult mortality rates across the country, ‘One You Could Save’ is a different animal of a song all on its own as it takes a step back and strips away in the beginning sequences, all the energy from the first outputs. With a mellow beginning yet fiery and punchy finish midway through. It is one of the longest tracks on the EP reaching a total of seven minutes, but the content we get is this emotionally lyrical content with a punk/hardcore vocal element. Beautiful, gripping, and dynamic guitar work is placed all throughout it from start to finish that leaves one of the longest tracks on the EP the most interesting, exciting, and mentally thought provoking. It will especially hit hard as it deals with the current events of mass school shootings that have occured this year, as we in the US still rank highest out of 20 of the wealthiest countries in the world. The heavy lyrical elements continue throughout the EP as we then get into songs like ‘IGIR’ which is a great and instrumentally busty listen about the ongoing fight on terrorism that still plagues our world. As we come to a close on the EP we are left with ‘End Species’, which takes another step back lyrically from human world problems and steps into the realm of war, pollution, and environmental effects on today’s modern climate and how it’s destroying the planet earth. Interesting fire ember effects were put into the beginning and ending of ‘End Species’ which created a great environment for it as if the planet is burning and falling apart from our own demise. This EP is definitely a letter of crisis to America and the world as it talks about so many politically relevant topics from start to finish in an engaging, energetic, and beautifully lyrical way. Listeners who are a fan of metalcore, punk and djent elements should check this out as this isn’t an EP to be missed. SA
They Called Him Zone - Death Drive (Single) They Called Him Zone has recently put out a single called ‘Death Drive’. The track has heavy 80s and 90s rock vibes that is sure to elate and grip many from these musical times. It contains these erotic neon electronic vibes but also has these dark rock undertones throughout, showing the band clearly has a sense of direction of where they want to go music wise. A sound that is different from most in the current rock pool as of late, fans of electronica and early 90s rock will take a nostalgic trip down memory lane with this little treasure. The sound is neither annoying or intrusive in its musical delivery, but merely just takes the listener there. Needless to say, we can expect some great things from this band, as it’s a sound that has become somewhat lost over the years, so some people will come to appreciate its reemergence. SA
From Ashes To New - The Future Rock and rap infused band From Ashes to New has debuted with yet their second album conveniently named ‘The Future’. The album came out this April and fans have every right to be proud of this sophomore installation to this band on the rise. Following up on the equally impressive ‘One Day’, it seems the guys have come back to take it all. In some ways they have, leaving quite a memorable and powerful album in its wake. ‘The Future’ in many ways feels like a very personal album, after coming back from a hiatus of taking care of some life issues, they have taken these new experiences, their musicality, and their unrelenting new vision and have created something special. This album is a terrific musical journey and a comeback album done right. Songs like ‘Wake Up’ are like a metaphoric clock in terms of how it brings one out of their normal state and invites us into their world and is a pathway to what sort of experiences await the listener from this point forward. We go from laid back to these intense chords and beats. The balance between the dreamy like aura the chorus gives off then amazingly transitioning to alert and energetic make this quite the masterful track to start off with. We then get into tracks like ‘Crazy’ that feel like they took notes and applied the nostalgic footnote of the Numetal sound of the early 00s and it works fantastically. Though some probably will find this track non-life altering, it plays on nostalgia flawlessly and serves as that backdoor for new fans of the genre to give it a try. ‘My Name’ is a song that definitively hits hard lyrically and packs so much of a punch instrumentally. It is a song that is strong willed in its deliverance yet positive about the present and what comes after.
For those that like a good rave-vibe feature on a track, ‘Broken’ is addicting and energetic, though vibrant in its delivery, the lyricism within this track is serious. The album then takes a slower and sadder turn with songs like ‘Forgotten’ which broadcast the idea of how one can be confined and trapped in a memory, leaving no growing room to expand to different horizons. While this is another track that is lyrically darker than most of those listed on this record thus far, the track creates this balance of pain and pleasure by delivering the listener raw and emotional lyricism while giving a great instrumental arrangement to keep the song from venturing into dark territory. ‘Let go’ is another example of one of the heavier songs on this record that gives us a backdrop into relationships and the pain of letting go and trying to move on. Both songs are great pallet cleansers for the record as the electric nature from the previous records then comes back to us with ‘On My Own’ and ‘The Future’. In many ways this is a great transition as ‘On My Own’ serves as a continuation to ‘Letting Go’. Its heavy guitar and percussion serve as a determined and uplifting metaphor that brings a powerful resurgence and light back to the rest of the album. While the energy is laid back for ‘The Future’ compared to that of ‘On My Own’, its absence of all the bells and whistles really resonates well lyrically in delivering an impacting and intense closing track. Though the presence of both songs are short lived, it’s a beautiful closing transition from sad and depressing to optimistic and full of hope for what will come. Come to the ending of the album, we get an essence of how this band really feels about what the future holds, and how powerful and unpredictable it can be. Whatever happens we must accept what comes and take it as a step forward. Whether it’s positive or negative, we keep fighting to reach a better tomorrow. For this band, the future seems pretty bright. SA
A Perfect Circle - Eat The Elephant After 14 years, A Perfect Circle has come out from a hiatus, and boy what a change from ‘Mer De Noms’ and ‘Thirteen Steps’ this album actually is. Out from the gate ‘Eat the Elephant’ is a masterpiece in its untapped stripped down nature. Fans shouldn't expect anything different due to Keenan’s and Howerdel’s creative genius. This painfully beautiful track truly represents the talent they both possess as song writers lyrically and instrumentally. This track is here to prove that they can still make a good record after all these years. It’s the pinnacle of the album. We then come up to the next track ‘Disillusioned’, a track that is a huge commentary on today’s modern society as it is for the technology that is used to promote such lifestyles. Such a track perfectly compliments the previous nature of the first song and serves as a wake up call to enjoy the life and people around you, not through technology but with human interaction. ‘The Doomed’ is one of those great unique songs you find in an album that stands out for its use of instrumentality. it has this really nice connective tissue of metal and electronica. While a cool little introduction to something new on the album, it’s bound to form a few head scratches as the album has so many twists and turns instrumentally. There are so many different styles of rock being introduced and infused together with electronic ad libs here and there on one record that it interferes with their theme instrumentally. ‘By and ‘Down the River’ even surprisingly has Howerdel taking a back seat instrumentally, to show off the intensity of Keenan’s lyricism. While it’s not to be said that most of the tracks on this album aren’t amazing if you look at them individually, but collectively it becomes confusing and a mess to figure out. The theme of views on life serves as the glue that keeps the album from falling apart under its artistic weight. Overall, the remainder of the album becomes unmemorable due to the over saturation of electronic elements that are introduced towards the last few songs of the album. ‘Feather’s’ however brings us back to where we were with ‘Eat the Elephant’. If you listen to anything on this album, let this be the one track to invest listening time into. It’s an emotionally gripping piece that really impacts with a listener on the first go round and even after. Overall, this doesn’t seem to be quite the album fans could be looking for after a 14 year hiatus, but there are songs that are just beautiful lyrically and instrumentally that are worth listening to, with a profound message of letting go and the current climate of life as we know it to be now. SA
Hoobastank - Push Pull This album was definitely highly anticipated on behalf of all the Hoobastank fans in the world, I’m sure. I have not followed Hoobastank through the years so I’m not quite sure what exactly I was expecting but I was surprised at the overall tone of the album. It was catchy, pop like and incorporated many elements of indie rock. From their earlier more textbook rock sound, I think I was expecting something more in line with that sound but I was pleasantly surprised. The ability to flip around (and pull off) a completely new sound speaks the evolution and growth. I could not love the title track ‘Push Pull’ any more! A jazzy, blues tempo and an alternative-indie-rock feel that combined pop elements expertly while keeping a signature sound. The chorus is extremely catchy, and rhythmic. I love that this track takes its time and doesn’t rush to get anywhere anytime soon, which gives the overall tone of the song a great swing and swish. This album is most definitely not the Hoobastank I knew, but I think it shows great maturation! LD
Mother Bass - Self-titled Mother Bass bring a debut album that misses the mark in a big way, the Dutch men have a raw sound which is something I like very much in this digital world but as a whole, the album just doesn’t hit enough of the right notes. The opener ‘Five Fifteen’ plods along and just doesn’t really go anywhere; the vocals haven’t got enough power to really cut through and give it that essential dimension that any album as lyric heavy as this needs to have. Not to say there aren’t moments where there isn’t encouragement, ‘Silver Spoon’ feels like it should have been a good song, even something that resembles something out of the box would have helped but it unfortunately ends feeling like a missed opportunity. Again, ‘Wolfman’ feels like it should be a good song, but everything just becomes predictable, there is nothing to hook the listener and the album just starts to become a chore. AN
Bullet For My Valentine - Gravity Highly anticipated and an album that marks a new era for Bullet For My Valentine in a number of ways. Their first on Spinefarm Records and the first non-major label release since ‘The Poison’. It is also an album that sees the band bring a massive new arrow to their bow in their use for the first time of electronic elements. The first release from the album ‘Over It’ has been a good start with the song receiving a lot of praise but what of the rest of the album? Is it a big departure from the their known sound? The answer is no, their signature sound is still there, as big and heavy as ever but the new electronica has just added something extra and for the most part it fits in nicely. Matt Tuck has talked of the band stretching its creative wings and it certainly rings true, they are taking a turn while keeping a signature feel, ‘The Very Last Time’, is a slow burner that lets the story being told be the emphasis before ‘Piece of Me’ crashes back in to the heavy, throat grabbing BFMV.
‘Gravity’ is a big album for Bullet’, they are one of the flag bearers for British metal and certainly the biggest of the newer breed of British metal, it would be the easiest thing in the world for them to stick to the formula that has served them so well so far. They are taking risks on this album, the risks that could and on the strength of this album, probably will pay dividends. The title track sounds massive, bringing old and new Bullet to the fore, it starts in a big way, with well timed breakdowns that kick in to arena crushing metal with crowd participation demanding sections, this one will be a big live hit. An album that packs a punch and brings great emotion with it, vocally Matt Tuck is wearing his heart on his sleeve, it may split opinion but hey, when haven’t BFMV split opinion? There will always be haters, the metal community loves to hate, but this band has an album that is going to be big and with a prime spot at this year’s Download, it could be the start of a golden period for the band. A new era starts right here for Bullet For My Valentine. AN
Breaking the Chains - We Are Breaking the Chains Breaking the Chains is a band that brings something a little different to the table, 46 all Dutch musicians featuring members of big hitters such as Within Temptation, Epica and Delain among many more, they combine for children’s charity, ‘Bikers Against Child Abuse’. The result is a little bit of a mixed bag, but not as mixed as you might expect from so many people taking part, there are some absolute bangers such as the opening ‘Superhero’ and others that don’t quite hit the same heights but the ratio is very much in favour of the positive. However, I am going to leave critical analysis at the door for this one, it is being done for a good cause and that deserves support, as do every person giving up their time to take part so it really doesn’t seem proper to do so. That said, there really are some very good songs on this album, it won’t be any surprise given the albums country of origin, that there is a distinctly European style of metal stamped all over it, the previously mentioned ‘Superhero’ kicks off a superb double header with the following ‘Angels on Wheels’ taking over in a great way. Other highlights include the catchy and bass driven ‘Follow My Way’ and ‘Valley Road, two very different tempos but both feature some big moments and ‘Cold Hands Warm Hearts’ has some superb riffs guiding it through. The title track, ‘Breaking the Chains’ brings a lot more atmosphere with an acoustic guitars and string sections, the lyrics feature the subject matter of the albums basis, which most of the songs do in some way but this one is more obvious. An album that is very enjoyable, there’s been a lot of work gone in to this and it shows by the passion that flows on it, here’s hoping it brings success. AN
Spygenius - Pacéphale With three releases behind them, Spygenius bring their fourth effort seeking to do something different and they certainly have something that isn’t easy to define. There seems to be a spirit of The Beatles flowing through the opener, ‘Shall I Show You In My Mirror’, it is catchy with funky bass lines and a nice flow that makes for an ear grabbing album opener. Then they go for a more blues number with a complete turn from the clean vocal of the opener, ‘Back Door Son Of Man’ is far grittier while carrying on the catchy, rolling bass lines while also adding in new elements such as, unless I’m very mistaken a Hammond organ and Xylophone. There is a certain quirkiness already to this album that is making it very enjoyable to listen to, it’s fun to listen to. Some great albums are great because they are hard to listen to and absorb a lot of the listener in, this album is fun, and it filters from what I perceive to a band having fun making this music. Three songs in with ‘Heathen’ and another new element thrown in with an accordion, this song moves away from the happy go lucky bounce of the first couple of songs and moves it a bit darker and moodier which shows some nice dynamic with ‘The Friendly Stars That Glow’ sandwiched between the also darker- toned ‘(Rock n Roll Is An) Old Man’s Game’. The vocals very much take centre stage on the superb ‘Eucalyptus & Cigarettes’, with harmonies and intertwining sections taking you on ride, it is a song to lose yourself in and just take in the story and its nursery rhyme like tale. This is very much a stand out that brings in elements of everything so far on the album while also making it sound stripped back and raw. The albums title, translates as “headless”, there is certainly nothing headless about this album. Spygenius have an album oozing with intelligent songwriting, structure and the knowledge of how to sequence the songs. One of my favourite releases of the year, simply top notch. AN
Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino Credit has to be given to Arctic Monkeys for not releasing anything off ‘Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino’ leading up to the release leaving everyone in the dark guaranteeing a surprise. Just like the name the artwork is odd and then it begins, all lounge like with piano driving the wheel, Turner’s spoken singing style does fit really well with the vibe of the album. ‘Four Out of Five’ is the first single and one of the first songs on the album that is energetic, not saying that has any bearing on an album. It must be noted that there is one of the most low key guitar solos ever at the end of ‘Four Out Of Five’!
‘Science Fiction’ is helped by a dramatic descending piano, distorted guitar and undertone of theremin like notes but isn’t helped by the drum beat. The following ‘She Looks Like Fun’ is a rough listen as it effects twist the vocals into a distorted hard to understand mess. Another point to highlight about album number 6 is that it is a complete u-turn form THE radio album ‘AM’, the drastic change in the music is not as centred on appealing rock riffs, there is no riff on this record which comes close to the catchiness of ‘Do I Wanna Know’ or ‘R U Mine’. Which automatically makes ‘Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino’ and gives it more personality. ‘Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino’ is bold in the direction the band have gone in but fails to capture too much interest beyond that, the music is drab for the most part and the mixing of the vocals leads them to be too loud and gives a feeling that it is separate from the music. EJ
Skull - Thoughts of The Others With an ambitious sixteen songs for a debut Skull certainly have confidence in themselves to put so many tracks on the album but does it work for them or should they have cut it down? ‘Hide & Seek’ sets out the path that the album is going to go in with the bands’ sound and production being very low-fi, and in a garage rock style. The single ‘Lightswitch’ is slower paced, having a more thudding beat and the vocals here are a bit more lively giving the track more of a pull. It does not deviate far from the sound that has been established up to this point. Ending the album with the lengthy 9:10 ‘Mother’ as it is so long there is obviously more chance for the band to show more of what they can do and thankfully Skull do. With there being a classic wah-wah guitar section, then at around the 4:39 mark it ends out with the railing scream from the singer, then there is a bit of silence and an ambient section, before the second part comes along with a fast bassline, more upbeat than most of the record. The Leeds based band have put together a perplexing debut. EJ
Wolf Culture - The Devil's Plans For Idle Hands By way of Bournemouth comes this extended play which is very, very radio friendly with the major key, chorus centric soft, poppy rock. ‘Continents’ is a change to the prior track as it actually changes pace numerous times within the song giving the listener a more ranged experienced unlike ‘Killing the High Horse’ which is a run of the mill track, that does not change pace. Making it feel monotone as there is no change up from a mid paced standard pop rock number. The best aspect to ‘The Devil’s Plans for Idle Hands’ is the production. The production is flawless, however I found that there is a lack of emotion. EJ
Elder Brother - Stay Inside The opening couple of songs ‘Greatest Hit’ and ‘No Reason’ get the album off to a strong start as the former of the two is a short piano piece going into the well executed catchy ‘No Reason’ with the chorus, delayed guitars, falsetto vocals make a very listenable pop-punk album. ‘Unnatural History’ picks back up after a couple lack lustre tracks and it is a more energetic song with one of the better vocal performances of the whole album, a breathy backwards grittier tone especially in the chorus. In addition to the better vocals the music is far more appealing with it being given a chance to shine on the outro which incorporates a somewhat lengthy guitar solo.
Overall, ‘Stay Inside’ suffers because of the plainer tracks, but songs like ‘Unnatural History’ and ‘No Reason’ are bright spots. EJ
Hell's Gazelle's - Take Your Medicine As soon as I saw the zombie doctor on the front cover of Hell’s Gazelles EP ‘Take Your Medicine’, I knew I was going to have to give this a go. The driving riffs and melodic vocals take this release far beyond just hard rock but into other wordly driven rock with an obscene amount of flare. The vocals are ridiculously out of this world with swing and attitude-- literally everything you want in a rock show for your night out. These guys are accessible to a huge crowd-- palatable to oldies in the scene or newbies who want to get their feet wet. Not only are these guys pulling off the rock n’ roll to the max attitude but they’re on the right track to a long and successful career which shows on this distinct and extremely rememberable EP. Cheers boys! Fantastic job! LD
Shinedown - Attention Attention ‘Attention Attention’ is the sixth studio album from American stadium hard rockers Shinedown. It is a concept album dealing with depicting a human overcoming their negativity through personal struggles to start again. First single released ‘Devil’ is also the first proper song to kick the album off. It immediately grips you in true Shinedown style with powerful vocals from Brent, heavy hard hitting groovy riffs and loud strong melodies and clever well written lyrics – what a way to start. ‘Black Soul’ follows and is fuelled with electronic synth sounds, making it more mainstream but with a dark edge and again is infectiously catchy, something that the band never fail with. The title track ‘Attention Attention’ has a different tone and has an upbeat hopeful sound. The first half of the album feels the strongest as at times it feels like the songs are a bit too similar, which isn’t always a bad thing but it picks up again with ‘Get Up’, which makes for a nice change of pace and stands out and the following track ‘Special’ flows perfectly on in an emotive and stripped back approach which highlights Brent’s ever impressive vocal capabilities. Second single ‘The Human Radio’ is a dynamic and exciting offering with driving bass lines and riffs and appropriately is very alarming. The album literally closes on a ‘Brilliant’ note which is fast and dynamic. This album feels quite light and optimistic and is one of their most mainstream offerings with a slight refrain from their heavier darker moments. However, they never fail to deliver a highly melodic and memorable album. This adds another piece to their impressive expanding sound and collection. CL
Dusk of Delusion - (F)unfair Alt metal French act Dusk Of Delusion are here to entertain us with their debut concept album inspired by an old fashioned fair of the 19th century, each offering is a depiction of a fair stand, its owner and behaviours of modern society, so they deliver this idea with their dynamic modern metal. The opening track ‘Insanity’ initially starts with a female voice welcoming you to the haunted mansion which is a good eerie prefix before frantic crashing drums and guitars come in, later accompanied by punishing screamed vocals which go between clean melodic and pained vocals. This is a blistering and energetic start that straps you in ready for the ride. ‘White Words’ is even more fierce and feral, with crushing groovy riffs and pounding drums that are bound to have you head banging quickly and throughout. While ‘Strings On Your Arms’ is a stand out resonant, dynamic and hard hitting track with memorable melodic singing and varied vocals. ‘The Juggler’ sees another voiceover to help the context of the concept and again gives it a sinister crazed vibe and the song manages to creep in a small but impressive metal reference of Entrance Of The Gladiators, in keeping with the funfair theme which the composition is associated with and makes this a definite stand out track for it. ‘All You Can See’ features some brilliant harmonised guitars whilst ‘Casanova’ is a resonant high impact track straight up metal number. The final offering ‘Take Me’ has a different feel and ends on a very sombre and tense note which makes for a lasting impression. This is a thrilling debut concept album which largely features groove metal with a difference, as there is a range of influences present, making for one crazy and big concoction which helps them offer a unique sound.
Sevendust - All I See Is War Over two decades into their career and Sevendust impressively have all their original members still present and the heavy rockers are still going strong as they have just released their twelvth album ‘All I See Is War’ via new label Rise Records. The opening track is single ‘Dirty’ which is captivating, melodic and ambient. Lajon Witherspoon’s harmonic vocals accompany the driving riffs perfectly, making for a brilliant start which will appease old and new fans alike. ‘God Bites His Tongue’ follows and features solid memorable guitars and Lajon’s vocals help make this track soar further, making for high impact early in. ‘Medicated’ explores new and exciting territory for the band and boasts a massive must hear chorus, along with more stand out vocals from the talented Lajon. ‘Unforgiven’ is one of the heaviest offerings, whilst ‘Sickness’ flows on nicely, and is a feast for your ears, being powerful, harmonic and all consuming. This is a definite highlight with a brilliant slick guitar solo – the whole track oozes with skill and style, much like the rest of the album. ‘Cheers’ has a change in pace to add in more variety, along with the likes of ‘Not Original’ which is different for them and even more exciting for it. This slow burning but equally powerful track is a great addition to the album. The final song ‘The Truth’ is a hard hitting and dynamic track that sees this creative and ambient album end on a definite high. This is a flawless, well written and excellently structured album which is beautiful yet crushing. This could be some of their best and most expansive material yet and it is so refreshing and brilliant to see a band with its original line-up after all this time displaying such creativity. CL
Cancer Bats - The Spark The Moves Its been three years since Cancer Bats have released a record. Notably, when one thinks of Cancer Bats we think of stoner metal. From the gate the first track of ‘The Spark That Moves’, is not only surprising , but a different animal entirely from what we have grown accustomed to with this band. It seems the band are set on rejuvenating themselves in a post hardcore fashion. From the get go we experience tons of energetic, fiery riffs, totally different from the Black Sabbath like musical taste they once had years ago. Most would say this is a good thing, as the band seems to have found their own sound, and not that of living in the shadows of a band’s established sound. ‘Gate Keeper’ and ‘Bed of Nails’ share this new dose of creativity that doesn’t go unnoticed as Cormier’s vocals give it a harsh amazing sound that is already accompanied with great instrumental guitar riffs. This isn't to say that their original sound has just disappeared completely as we can feel this through the great guitar workings of Scott Middleton in ‘Brightest Day’ and that of ‘Fear Will Kill Us All’. There is something for new fans and old when it comes to this record, which comes to show the careful attention to detail this band put into such a fantastic record. All the signs point to a new broader soundscape for the band where as before they were a band much centered on keeping a more metal sound without necessarily feeling the need to branch out into new musical territories. The album seems to go back and forth between both metal and a post hardcore influences. Songs like ‘We Run Free’ deliver heavier hardcore elements in terms of its anthemesque like nature while other tracks like ‘Space and Time’ delivers more intrusive and harder hitting metal guitar elements. Needless to say this band has proven with this independent release that they have what it takes to play around with new elements in the rock genre and deliver a crisp and energetic presence that hardcore and metal fans alike should stick around for. This newly found resurgence in building a new sound for the band has shown that they don’t have to rely on established roots musically to stay relevant. In fact this album proves over tenfold that they always had it in them to produce such a different musical treat, it just took them a bit to realise it. Overall, this a great and new musical direction Cancer Bats has stumpled upon. SA
Bleed From Within - Era With a string of sold out shows, including an immense hometown one at St. Lukes, Glasgow’s Bleed From Within are back with a thunderous bang with their first album since 2013’s ‘Uprising’. It has been a pretty rapid rise for the band with tours supporting the likes of legendary thrashers such as Testament and Megadeth and being part of tours with Amon Amarth and Carcass in the past few years. Big names to be around but with this album, Bleed From Within are taking a massive step to being one of the bands that takes the new breed out. ‘Era’ sees the band taking a big step up, the quality of the songwriting, which was never lacking before by the way, seems on a different level, ‘Clarity’ opens the album in a big way and there is no let up from there on. The melodies fly alongside the crushing riffs, the vocals lead the charge superbly while the drums and bass anchor everything together well. Bleed From Within were absent for quite sometime so there must have been pressure building up to this album and they have answered it with style and a fist to the face. They have also elevated themselves to being among the elite of British metal, often under appreciated in the past, that changes right here for Glasgow’s metal kings. AN
Ash - Islands After playing for many years together, it seemed written in the stars back in 2007 that Ash was done as a band after the release of ‘Twilight of Innocence’. Sadly this story like many other bands still rings true. You can play by the genre rule book to a T, but it doesn’t always mean you will get to reap its rewards. The band for some time was going through some financial trouble until 2001, and even then the dream of becoming a band as a career once more was looking rather bleak. Needless to say it’s been a long time since the band was at the peak of their teenage glory, making the charts that would sell millions of records. Now on their eighth album, ‘Islands’ seems to be the future, and the outcome looks positive and full of promise for Ash, It seems as though the band has now found a great place within themselves to put their thoughts lyrically and instrumentally into real practice. This band seems eager and willing to dilute any negative connotations surrounding the band’s music, and to some extent proving to themselves that as a band they are willing to go the extra distance. Ash’s ‘Islands’ seems willing to prove that if you have a great thing going, there is no need to change the format of what you are doing, rather capitalize on it and develop on it further. It goes without saying that the Irish trio worked hard and tirelessly to stay a float in the unpredictable nature of the rock industry. ‘Islands’ is living proof of that as Ash constantly has tried to be above what the industry standard is. While this album is all about stripping away the extra bells and whistles, Ash still had their fans clearly in mind when producing this record. Tracks like ‘Silver Suit’, ‘Annabel’ deliver on those energetic and vibrant punchy chugs and vocals that are too infectious to pass up the first listen around, while other tracks like ‘Confessions In the Pool’ and ‘Don’t Need Your Love’ are a beautifully infused manifestation of post punk, art rock, and pop to nostalgic surf rock all coupled together. We then get little treasures like that of ‘True Story’ and ‘Did Your Love Burn Out?' which branch out and create some pretty intense indie and alternative rock soundscapes for these songs to live in on the album. One can say that Ash is definitively testing the waters of quite a few genres of rock and other infused musical genre elements and it works. For hardcore fans of the band searching for some nostalgic element of the bands prior sound, ‘BuzzKill’ serves as a love letter for those that stuck around from 96’ until present. But the most delightful of musical treats is ‘Incoming Waves’ which achieves and retains its post-rock elements almost flawlessly that were introduced in the album prior. It also shows the potential of Ash as a band and what they set out to do music wise. For those that ever had their doubts on such a band, Ash speaks beyond volumes with why they still remain one of the few best acts around that isn't afraid to try new things musically.
SA Open Arms - Honey I don’t know who Open Arms are but if they’re opening then I’m coming in. There are some bands that just come along that just tick all the right boxes. These four guys from Birmingham bring with them a solid sound that is uplifting, full of life half rock and half pop and make it sound awesome. Even after the first listen the earworm in the form of their new single ‘Honey’ has made its way into my brain and is already repeating the chorus over and over begging me to listen to it again. However it’s not just the lyrics that make this a stand out track, the vocals have something special and a uniqueness that can’t be imitated, despite how one might try in the shower. The end result of ‘Honey’ is a funky mesh up of pop and rock that will make you want to dance the night away or at least three minutes and one second of it. This is their opening single for their anticipated release ‘Sunflowers’ due in June. If this is what a teaser is like then I can only imagine the EP will be something truly special. RO
They Were Giants - Self-titled (EP) They Were Giants is a post-hardcore and alternative band from Dallas, Texas. Brought together from the four corners of the DFW through Craigs list, the band seems to be driven by music that makes an impression on your life and impacts you in the most deepest of personal ways. From start to finish the band provides a stellar music composition that delivers quite a distinct approach to the posthardcore and alternative genres of rock. Right from the start we get a fantastic range of vocals from Garrett Gullette ranging from dirty and clean vocals simultaneously in one track. ‘Indiscretions’ really speaks volumes to how talented Mark McDonald really is, along with guitarist Louis Lemienux and Ross Mayfield. Most Importantly, the vocals of Gullette fit really well with the band’s sound. Though songs like ‘Indiscretions’ and ‘Campfire Stories’ are more emotionally hard hitting lyrically and intense and passionate on the instrumentals, its mellow nature helps convey the approach of the two songs perfectly without jepordizing the overall hardcore image of their sound.
We then get a very fiery and intense sound with the next few tracks ‘The day Of’ and ‘Upside Down’, showing that within a mere 25 minutes the band can definetly mix up the energy of a record in a short period of time without it sounding out of place and clashing into one another with the overall style the album is striving to give off. While Gullette’s vocals maintain this aggressive but mellow nature the difference in guitar riffs helps to keep the tracks interesting and makes the listener want to invest the almost half hour of time to listen to all the tracks this release has to offer. The last and final track is by far the most melodically different and yet satisfying of them all, mainly because you don’t see it coming yet it still fits in amazingly well with the rest of the album. ‘Maybe One Day’ is bound to be a favourite for soon to be fans of this new band. From the lyrically impressive and deep percussive elements to that extra injection of energetic guitar and bass promotes a musically personal journey that most will be able to connect with in some shape or fashion. It really shows that They Were Giants want to promote that we all more or less go through the same struggles and they want to take part and join in on the fight with the rest of us. A beautiful and effective EP at best, They Were Giants is the band to be looking out for in 2018 and onwards. SA
Desert Clouds - Under Tons London based Desert Clouds are a band that even in this one song, are able to bring a number of styles to show off with each one moulded together and fitting together superbly well. ‘Under Tons’ has a slow building, strummed opening before heading in to what is to my ear a fuzz fused doom style. The melodies sit well against the power chord rhythms and also bring a very Eastern touch. It is sectioned up well and the thundering, abrupt close leave with the need to explore further. A spot at Campden Rocks on June 2nd will give them ample chance to be explored. AN
Templeton Pek - Watching The World Come Undone I've never actually heard of 'Templeton Pek' before and normally before reviewing bands I like to check out their social media to get a good grasp of what I'm in-store for. I thought for a change I'd just jump straight in. I feel like I've discovered Rise Against’s little brother but unlike younger siblings normally, these guys aren't allowing their older brother to take all the limelight. 'Nowhere to Hide' Really hits you in the face with its pace and energy pumping you up for the rest of the album. Unfortunately track two 'Oblivious' just doesn't do it for me. After the build up of energy I want more. However once I hit 'Axis' my fears are put to rest as this track is like The Offspring back in their prime. I love a good palm mute section. From here the album goes from strength to strength with melodic choruses a plenty and enough headroom in there to really mosh out. Just when you think you've heard everything to hear in this album however there’s a really small thrash part in 'On Our Own' which is almost the icing on the cake for what is a really fun album. These guys have nailed their style perfectly. The blend between instrument and vocals is always a tough one with this kind of style but I really think they've done it. All in all this is a really solid album, that really shows there is still a lot of passion left in this punky, alt rock genre. TR
The Weekend Classic - Better Health (EP) I've come across The Weekend Classic quite a few times just recently, they are that band you always see or hear about but never get round to actually checking them out for one reason or another. That being the case I'm very happy to be able to review these guys because in a nut shell the EP is a perfect blend of nostalgia and modern alternative rock. The first song 'Detached' is a great little post rock number full of atmosphere that really sets the tone for the rest of the EP. The mixture of pop-punk style vocals and ambient guitars just makes perfect sense and you can tell the guys knew they were on to a winner. The chorus in 'Room To Grow' is where they really show their strength. Full of feeling and ambient lead parts (yes parts, there’s a lot going on in this chorus) alongside the Sum 41 call-back in the lyrics just makes for a great song. From here the EP just gets better and better and although it’s more of the same, I don't really feel like it needs much else. From a production point of view the EP is mixed perfectly giving each layer room to breathe without sacrificing any headroom for one another's parts. All the effects are used in taste and not overdone. It really feels like a complete mix. All in all I enjoyed this EP and from my second play through I found myself quite happily singing along. A band to watch for sure. TR
Betty Moon - 'Parachute' (Single) This single begins with a funky, swing beat that flawlessly transitions into her sultry vocals. This tracks seems to take a retro take on new school pop, and combines the two very well. While I’m not a huge fan of this vocal style, nor overall tone, I think she did a great job with production value and her vocals show a lot of promise. As a pop track it seems to slow things down and make the world spin which is worth a listen for anyone! LD
The Fever 333 - Made An America To say the untimely split of Letlive. came as a shock to most fans would be an understatement. The band had just released their most thought provoking album to date with If ‘I’m the Devil…’ and it seemed as if everything was going very well for the California four piece and then it all came to a head and they parted ways stating “Nothing would happen in the foreseeable future.” Now I’m even more confused with the release of ‘Made An America’ because it appears as if Jason Butler has moved onto Letlive 2.0. Fever 333 have described themselves as a rap rock act. This avenue of music is to allow Jason to write about the horrid plights of the world and a lot of subjects are dealt with quite well. The activists take aim and fire back at police brutality in the raw lead single ‘We’re Coming In’ and titular track ‘Made An America’ has a heavy bass line running all the way through it. Even though ‘(The First Stone) Changes’ has a distinct change to it thanks to the talents of Yelawolf all of the songs basically sound the same. When I say the same I mean they all sound like Rage Against the Machine. Butler’s vocals are still very dominant in this and that’s probably the only part that doesn’t match the political fighters tit for tat. However the instrument work, the rapping and the overall theme of the album just feels like it’s been done before.
It’s obvious they’re not in this for the money or the recognition because why else would they have come from such humble beginnings, their first gig being in a doughnut shop in America! They’re doing this because it’s something they believe in and truthfully it’s amazing to be that dedicated to change. However, for me it’s just been done already. A politically charged album from Letlive.’s previous singer does exactly what it says on the tin. I just wish there were a few bumps along the road to keep it interesting. RO
Heft - Self-Titled For those of you who fell in love with Slipknot upon your first encounter with heavy set music, I think these guys are for you. Heft (out of North Carolina) seem to have a knack for burying you deep into plunging riffs and pulling vocals. These guys also pulled off a nearly 40 minute long release on their Self-Titled album with twelve tracks. My biggest problem with this release was actually the visual release they made in order to stream the album in its entirety on YouTube. I felt that the visuals were for lack of a better word, cheesy. Some of the shots were done on a phone or so it appeared so with the footage only filling about a third of the screen. For me, these visuals actually took away from the way I experienced the audio so I just didn’t look at it. That being said, the way it looks should not be the be all ends all of this album. My concern with this album was that it would become one noted and redundant since the vocals are primarily screams and the riffs are (with variation) amongst the same category of tone and style. In some areas I felt that it did become a tad one noted, and I wish that there was a bit more dimension, however overall I wouldn’t say that the album was that way. ‘Baby Steps’ had a fantastic primordial bridge, and it’s clear that these guys put in the scratch work and elbow grease. Overall, while in some areas a bit lacking, a solid release and a good foundation to show off what Heft is all about. LD
We Are Scientists - Megaplex For me We Are Scientists will always hold a special place. I discovered them in that awkward time between being obsessed with Slipknot and realising rock music didn’t need to be so angry as I flitted between nu-metal and pop punk and somewhere in the middle I found a small soon to be massive indie band from America. Obviously it started with ‘The Great Escape’ and that weird music video and it grew from there. I was hoping for more of what made me fall in love with these two rebels from New York and unfortunately what I found is what’s happened to all my favourite bands of the mid 2000s, they’ve gone soft. ‘Megaplex’ was doomed for me with the lead single ‘One In, One Out’. The synth introduction is something reminiscent of a 70s throw away and the lyrics are as mundane as vanilla flavoured ice cream sprinkled with plain toppings. For this to be the album opener does not inspire hope, it feels as if this band have lost what made them special all those years ago. ‘Notes In a Bottle’ and ‘Heart is a Weapon’ almost feel like the same song, they both have a very steady tempo and feel as if no risks are taken. There’s a massive build up coming but it just never quite gets there, every time it feels as if something will happen and then it stops. It’s a buzz kill. There is a shining moment when it comes to ‘Your Light Has Changed’, there’s an amazing bass line themed throughout and the drums are a lot heavier than other tracks. While the guitar work is never going to match that of their previous great tracks it feels as if this is a very close match. Only to be brought down by ‘KIT’, it’s unclear what their aim was with this track. It sounds like a Coldplay/Editors crossover with some synth once again thrown in for good measure. The vocals from Keith are so far gone it doesn’t even feel like I’m listening to the same band. I think their aim was to have a massive anthem with a satisfying finish but unfortunately it just falls flat. Which is a major theme on this album. While there are stand out tracks on this album, ones that make you tap your toes and go “Yeah, this is pretty sweet” in ‘Not Another Word’, ‘No Wait at Five Leaves’ and of course ‘Your Light Has Changed’ the rest just seem to phase in and out awkwardly. There were moments I had to stop and take note I’d gone onto another track. The whole album almost blends into one and it almost defeats the whole effort of this band and why they were so great when they broke through. This latest attempt was a bad experiment We Are Scientists.
RO Hatchet For Hands - Convulsions of a Dying Empire (EP) I was quite excited for this album after seeing the name of this band - I was hoping for deep, aggressive, and ready to punch you in the face kind of heaviness. Ask and you shall receive my friends. These guys definitely delivered on this promise with both careful and heavy riffs that have a nice give and take between showing off their skill and pitted aggression. As the lovechild of two producers Brian Parks and Cullen Poythress, it’s easy to tell that this album came from seasoned hands. These guys give a full range and orchestra of sound despite only two people acting in this album (which notably the number of members in an act should not matter) and I do find that very impressive.
These tracks sound like they come straight from the world of Mad Max: Fury Road, which speaks to the levels these tracks play to - a true success in my opinion to be able to create a visual world in someone’s head simply through aural content. Props to these guys on an excellent release and for all you classic metal and thrash fans, this one’s for you! LD
The Wonder Years - SWX Bristol - 17/04/18 The Wonder Years returned to Bristol in support of their new album ‘Sister Cities’, after Sorority Noise pulled out of the tour, the crowd were treated to two sets by the Pennsylvania pop punks. Before the acoustic set the crowd were also treated to support act A.W. who produced an excellent range of vocals on all her songs including the likes of ‘Golden Coast’ and ‘Over You’ – it was a nice set of power pop and a good warm up for The Wonder Years acoustic set. There was also a cool moment when Soupy came out on stage to help close out the set on ‘New Love’. There was great anticipation for The Wonder Years acoustic set, the band raced through it – playing mainly songs from ‘Suburbia...’ and ‘No Closer to Heaven’. It was a great relaxed atmosphere as the band encouraged the audience to sing along, highlights were ‘Living Room Song’ which was brilliantly performed and really got the crowd involved. It was great to hear songs that wouldn’t normally be in the bands sets like ‘Madelyn’ and ‘You in January’ where A.W. returned a favour and sang superbly in the chorus. The band finished with ‘No Closer to Heaven’ before they went off for a brief break allowing the crowd to gather their energy for the electric set.
The band kicked off with the powerful recent single ‘Pyramids of Salt’ there was an amazing energetic response from the crowd especially in the chorus. The band then went back to their ‘No Closer to Heaven’ album with the uplifting ‘I Don’t Like Who I Was Then’ & the super fun ‘Thanks for The Ride’ which always requires a strong vocal performance from Dan Campbell and its infectious chorus was screamed back by the band. The band took a breather with ‘It Must Get Lonely’ before gathering the pace with ‘Cul-de-sac’ and then pushing out another track off the new album with ‘We Look Like Lightning’ – The Wonder Years choruses have always been crowd pleasers, ‘Coffee Eyes’ and ‘Came out Swinging’ certainly did that with an epic reaction from the packed crowd. The greatest hits kept rolling out with ‘The Devil in My Bloodstream’ ‘Sister Cities’ ‘Raining in Kyoto’ ‘There, There’ all-in succession. ‘Sister Cities’ showed how popular the album is proving with another brilliant passionate reaction from the crowd. Frontman Dan Campbell really showed off his energetic presence with a stirring rendition of ‘Cardinals’ – the band closed out the set with an anthemic masterpiece – ‘The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me’ which was performed on point and beautifully executed. After an already long set most of the crowd were exhausted, but still had enough energy to call for an encore. The band obliged performing ‘Passing Through a Screen Door’ to a suddenly raucous crowd. The set finally closed with the emotional ‘Cigarettes & Saints’ a relatively calm ending to what had been an exhilarating set of the their best songs. The band used every last ounce of energy for a powerful ending with the awesome outburst at the end of ‘Cigarettes & Saints’ – the gig was another reminder that they are one of most energetic bands around, it was definitely a treat to see the band performing twenty-five songs in total, I would highly recommend the new album ‘Sister Cities’ which sees the band move into a new sound but still produce incredibly catchy numbers. JP
Guns n Roses One of the biggest success stories of the last decade, the Not In This Lifetime tour has been a colossal money spinner, generated millions in merchandise and revitalised what was once dubbed “The most dangerous band in the world” in to finding themselves with the fourth highest grossing tour ever. The band of course never went away, while Slash and Duff McKagan were now steering Velvet Revolver, amongst other projects over the years, Axl with various lineups kept Guns n Roses alive. With Slash and Duff back interest has again peaked and they return to Castle Donnington 30 years on from their legendary bow. There is also the small matter of the reissue of ‘Appetite For Destruction’ so expect the potential for guest appearances from Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler to add to what is sure to be a grand spectacle. Guns n Roses are as big as they have ever been with a new generation to see (most of) the classic lineup. Smashing records as well as stages, this set is one to mark in the must-see box AN
Zeal and Ardor One of the most unique acts out there today, Zeal & Ardor combine blues, gospel and folk with extreme styles of metal to create something that on paper, doesn’t sound like it should work but Manuel Gagneux makes it not only work, but sound as natural as any other style. Debut album ‘Devil Is Fine’ has led to the band becoming a big deal, new album ‘Stranger Fruit’ is sure to expand the band and where better to keep the buzz going than the Donnington soil? I suspect a packed tent for Zeal & Ardor as there will be plenty of curiosity to see what they can do live. If you want something that transcends genres and styles then this one is for you, get on it. AN
Wayward Sons Toby Jepson returns to Download post Little Angels reunion with a band that are picking up a lot of admirers at the moment. ‘Ghosts of Yet To Come’ garnered plenty of rave reviews and the band have grown much because of more and more successful tours. Jepson is one of British rocks, at times, unsung heroes. He has been there and done it with Little Angels most famously, but also as a producer and supporting actor but he is doing what he should be, fronting Wayward Sons. Wayward Sons are coming through organically, allowing the music and the live shows to do the talking for them, don’t be surprised to see them climbing the bill in future years. AN
Nothing More Since the early days, Nothing More aspired to satiate music driven boredom and a DIY attitude, pushing harder every day to build themselves from the ground up. From fixing their first tour van from a raccoon ridden RV, to hand building stages for live shows, these guys brought the heat then from their passion driven musical creations, to now with their aggression riddled riffs, monstrous bass, and tribal percussion that succeeds all conventional ‘rock’ sounds. The San Antonio progressive act bring their relentless attitudes onto the stage with note worthy stage presence and raw, unadulterated feeling to each and every song. The quartet has been known to introduce DIY tools to their sets to bring distinction and border pressing vibes to the scene, adding a whole new meaning to progressive rock. Along with well timed lights and special effects, their performance on the stage comes out on top; quality and focused on the real reason we are all there, to enjoy music. LD
Miss May I Troy, OH metalcore staples Miss May I are going to be a must watch at Download. Maybe I am a bit biased since I’ve been a lifelong fan, but we won’t talk about that. These guys have been at the top of every metalcore lover’s playlist since 2007, and they have always brought ridiculously dense and aggressive tunes to the table that have busted subwoofers since they were born. All their albums show immense growth and evolution as a group, and they’re promising a lifelong career of innovation and banging melodies. Currently signed to SharpTone Records with one album out under them and five album under their previous label, Rise Records, Miss May I are ready to mosh and to open those pits at Download. LD
The Maine With the most recent release of their album ‘Lovely Little Lonely’, The Maine once again impressed and made waves in the scene. With a good live track record, and an impressive new album to boast, The Maine are a shoe in to make it onto your must see list for Download. These pop punk turned indie rockers are likely to promise some singalong songs like ‘I Must Be Dreaming’, ‘Diet Soda Society’, or some of their newer karaoke classics like ‘Taxi’. With their most recent release, these guys showed some true growth and progress as artists which spoke to their maturation and experiences as not only people but as a band. It is only with time that music becomes evolved and well rounded, and with that comes experiences and things to learn through the trials and tribulations of musicianship. The Maine are a namesake to the pop punk world, and are sure to make some ears very happy out in the Download crowds. LD
Andrew W.K. He is easily one of the most uplifting, ultra positive acts around and that is a massive reason to see him. He has made the most triumphant of returns with the album ‘You’re Not Alone’ that came out earlier this year. With lead single ‘Music Is Worth Living For’ and the latest release ‘Ever Again’ leading the charge for positive themed rock music. The man in all white will make you feel better about everything, and be a pick me up from the rigors of festival going. EJ
Tigress The Chelmsford alternative rock band are a solid outlet that offer some high energy in the music they make that is certainly going to translate to the live setting. With the single ‘Power Lines’ and its catchy clapping, singable chorus is sure to go over well with the audience. Rockier ‘Bring Me Down’ will get the head bangers going with this rushing track. Tigress certainly will rock up and rock out and you should go join them in doing so. EJ
Ecca Vandal Personality really does drive the music that Ecca Vandal has created, merging elements of R n’ B with rock and punk. The contrast certainly makes for a exciting listen and this is certain to draw a crowd at Download especially as the eponymous debut was critically acclaimed. From ‘Future Heroine’ to 'Battle Royal', Ecca offers a dynamic sound. Backed up by the live performances you can see online then it’s safe to say that she needs to be added to the list of artists you see. EJ
Baroness Playing Download Fest yet again this year, Baroness is bringing their brand of fantasy-driven art metal. Never ones to follow a trend or a bandwagon, Baroness have more than a decade of paving their own way through heavy metal behind them. With roots in sludge metal and post metal, Baroness have spent their career crafting a sound totally original to them. With heavy riffs, dreamy synths, and tremendous vocals. Baroness is not a band to miss. MC
Employed to Serve Breakout post-hardcore heavyweights, Employed to Serve, are riding the success of their debut release ‘The Warmth of a Dying Sun’. The record is awfully ambitious for a debut and it perfectly captures their insane live energy. It’s heavy and aggressive, but still holds the listener in a tension. MC
Bad Religion You could probably write books about what Bad Religion has done with their career (in fact I think they have) and you wouldn’t even need to introduce them. Bad Religion has stood the test of time and are one of the few bands that has seen punk throughout its entire existence. After nearly 40 years the band has still stayed strong and kept their live show energy. Their politically charged lyrics combined with their classic fast-riffed punk playing has kept the attention of generations of audiences. MC
Mayday Parade Florida’s Mayday Parade are returning to this year’s Download festival following the announcement of their new album ‘Sunnyland’ with Rise Records. Mayday Parade have become pioneers in the emo genre since the success of their debut album ‘Tales Told by Dead Friends’ back in 2006. No Download line-up would be complete without some classic emo rock hits! SC
Baby Metal Are you ready to mosshusshu?! The Japanese trio Su-metal, Yuimetal, Moametal are coming to Download to blow your mind with some Kawaii death metal. Baby Metal are renowned for their eclectic live performances with their impressive dance moves and gothic Japanese costumes. Baby Metal will be warming the crowd up for metalcore titans Parkway Drive. SC
Lawnmower Deth Ooh Crikey it’s Lawnmower Deth. That’s right Lawnmower Deth are back at download this year playing on the Zippo Encore stage Saturday June 8th, and I can tell you now having seen this band many times before you’re going to be in for a real treat if a somewhat silly one. The amount of fun you will have watching this band would brighten up even the wettest of days at download and there’s been a few over the years. Of course it’s more than likely going to be a greatest hits set but the band have got a back catalogue full of them with such classics as ‘Satan's Trampoline’, ‘Icky Ficky’, ‘Did You Spill My Pint?’, ‘Ooooh Crikey ‘and of course their Famous cover of ‘The Kids In America’. Whether you’re a diehard fan or totally new to the band it will definitely be a set to remember for the whole weekend. LS
Alexisisonfire The band has had a successful career since their big debut in 2001, and one of my favourite albums by them is ‘Watch Out’. Mostly because you can literally feel the connection this band has with one another musically, blending heavy musical and intense elements, with really addicting and infectious uptempo progressions. This band has always shown they put great effort into their craft and doesn't slack off when it comes to producing a great record. This band can hang in there with the best of them, putting little treasures into their music that make them stand out among their counterparts. From the amazing uncanny lyricism, to putting out a musical experience that is both fun and thoughtfully engaging at the same time. Alexisonfire have been a favourite of mine because they can take music that is overly emotional in its nature and somehow make the end result exciting and compelling. This band has a way of being over confident without being obnoxious, and their stealthy use of subtlety within their songwriting has always made them have interesting depth in their records without running the risk of coming off as clique and boring. SA
Corrosion of Conformity Sludge metal kings return to Donnington again on the back of the mighty return to form that is ‘No Cross No Crown’. An absolute piledriver of an album, head to toe in fine riffs and peaking at an extremely respectable #67 on the Billboard 200 with Pepper Keenan recently returning to the line-up also. No strangers to Donnington, they first played at the Metallica headlined Escape From The Studio event in 1995 and were the last there at 2015’s event. Expect a whirlwind of material from C.O.C’s long history twinned right up to their superb new album, they know how to tear it up and Download should expect a new one to be torn in a big way. AN
Rolo Tomassi Rolo Tomassi are one of the most impressive up and coming bands making waves at the moment. Their newest record, ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It,’ is one of the easiest metal records to get into that I’ve heard in awhile. Though just calling them metal doesn’t fully do them justice either. Rolo seamlessly employs elements of post rock, post metal, mathcore, indie rock, black metal, and who knows what else. They may have just invented their own genre. Their incomparable songwriting paired with high energy live performances make this band unforgettable no matter how you are introduced to them. MC
Parkway Drive Things are about to get LOUD as Australia’s biggest metalcore band Parkway Drive are going to be headlining the Zippo Encore Stage this year. Expect some in-your-face guitar riffs and mosh pit mayhem. If that wasn’t enough to get you ready for Download, the five-piece have just dropped their sixth studio album ‘Reverence’. SC
Bullet For My Valentine Heavy metal Welsh titans are no strangers to Download Festival UK, this year will mark their eighth appearance! They have nabbed the second headliner spot once again and will play before headliners Avenged Sevenfold which is quite the line-up. With their sixth album on the way we already have an exciting taste of what to expect from new single ‘Over It’ and with a release date of June 29th Download is the perfect grounds to unleash some of their new offerings in the live setting. As they are high up on the line-up they will surely have time to pack in all their best metal anthems for the crowds to singalong and head bang to such as ‘Tears Don’t Fall’, ‘Your Betrayal’, ‘All These Things I Hate (Revolve Around Me)’, ‘Waking The Demon’ and more, spanning across their impressive back releases. CL
Meshuggah Swedish metal veterans Meshuggah are ready to rock at Download! You can expect some brutal pits, and lovers of all things heavy during their set. If you’re looking to get some battle scars and bloody photos, you can expect to find some wild pits during their set so get your moshing arms ready and your emergency contact on speed dial (or not). Make sure to catch Meshuggah’s set at Download and enjoy their seasoned career, and discography! LD
Avenged Sevenfold This isn’t the first time they have headlined Download festival as they first had this honour back in 2014 closing the Friday and four years later they are here to do it again! With their distinctive sound, easily identified by M. Shadows vocals and the brilliant guitar harmonies from Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance and their impressive back catalogue of seven albums they make for a wise and powerful modern metal act to headline the opening day of the festival. As their latest album ‘The Stage’ was released in 2016, we are bound to be in for a varied and eclectic set of old and new material including their biggest hits such as ‘Bat Country’, ‘Hail To The King’, ‘Nightmare’, ‘Afterlife’ and much more. The band have stated that their summer tour and festival run will be a big and different send-off where they will pull out all the stops for production before they go into hibernation for their next record so you don’t want to miss this headline set which is bound to be mental and exciting. CL
Shinedown This will be their third time to take to the Download festival stage. Their first time in 2009 they were on the second stage and then in 2012 they played the main stage and now on the Sunday they are third before the main headliners, showing how much they have grown. Brent Smith is quite the powerhouse vocalist and they always deliver with their stadium sized rock. As well as playing their stable and biggest hits such as ‘Sound Of Madness’, ‘Second Chance’ and ‘Cut The Chord’ they have just unleashed their sixth studio album ‘Attention Attention’ so no doubt we will be treated to the new offerings like ‘Devil’ and more. CL
Bury Tomorrow Melodic metalcore heroes Bury Tomorrow return to Download’s second stage after their successful and blistering set in 2016, it will be a highly anticipated return and with a new album on the way on July 13th, hopefully they will bridge that gap by airing some new material at the festival. They have an impressive and energetic presence and make for a memorable set, especially with their distinct contradictory yet complimentary harsh and clean vocals from Daniel Winter-Bates and Jason Cameron which help give them their unique edge. No doubt they will rapidly fire out some of their best and most known tracks like ‘Earthbound’, ‘Lionheart’ and ‘Man On Fire’ amongst some potential new offerings. CL
Marmozets Currently riding the wave of their sophomore LP release ‘Knowing What You Know Now’, UK’s own Marmozets are bringing their manic, metal-influenced hooks to the Download Fest stage once again this year. Their latest release, ‘Knowing What You Know Now,’ employs their same frenzied energy with some new perspectives and more grown up musicianship. MC
Rise Against For me this band are criminally underrated, they’ve proved time and time again over the years what a dedicated band they really are. This isn’t a band who talk politics to look edgy, this is a band who fight back against the injustices of the world. A band who have had Sea Shepherd at their gigs to promote against whaling vessels. They are one of the only acts who stand up for what is right in the world and sound amazing while they’re doing it. With hits like ‘Savior’, ‘Make It Stop’ and ‘Hero of War’ this headline set will be spectactular from the Chicago punks. RO
The Hives Sweden’s best rock band by far are once again gracing our shores and they will put on a fantastic show. These guys will attract a massive audience with their massive tracks like ‘Walk Idiot Walk’ and ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’. They are always looking their best when they perform in their standard black and white suits as well. I think their brand of hard rock is just what Donington is begging for this year. RO
The Faim Although these guys have only been around since 2014, in 2017 they travelled all the way from their home in Perth Austrlaia to LA to record their debut EP and even that hasn’t seen the light of day yet. So we have a few songs on Spotify and they’ve somehow landed at one of the biggest rock festivals on the planet. If that doesn’t tell you enough about alt rockers Faim then I don’t know what will. Their new single ‘'Saints of the Sinners' is an absolutely amazing tune and will light up any tent this year. These guys are going to be big. RO
You Me At Six This is a band that need no introductions! The Surrey rockers have been away for a long time preparing their anticipated sixth studio album and what better place to show off a few new tracks than Download Festival. These boys are no strangers to Donington and certainly know how to run their game on a big stage. The only fear is that their last album was quite mellow, will their newer tracks be enough to engage with a Download audience? Only time will tell. RO
Before the title screen had even come up for Avengers: Infinity War we’d already seen enough action to completely whet the appetite and from that moment it was clear this was going to be an unpredictable movie. We’re introduced to Thanos straight away and see the big pink goliath battle it out with Hulk before the green giant is bi-frosted to Earth quicker than you can say “Smash!” Thanos is then left with Loki and Thor and it’s intense to say the least. Boasting the most ambitious crossover event in history this film focuses on many different areas at once but at no point does it feel as if it’s losing base with any of its characters. One of the things I was most looking forward to was the interactions between characters who didn’t know one another. Marvel’s resident big headed genius Iron Man doesn’t simply meet Doctor Strange and become best friends rather they butt heads and are in constant disagreement. We’re given a little bit of comedy relief with this though in the form of fifteen year old Spider-Man who is still desperate to prove himself to Tony Stark. He just makes far too many sci-fi references for the billionaire to handle. Without giving too much away these three go on a spectacular journey and work with each other really well and they also bump into a few more friendly faces along the way. Meanwhile way up in the galaxy we find the Guardians as they cross paths with the main Asguardian Thor and that probably initiates one of the funniest scenes in the movie. Chris Pratt and Chris Hemsworth bounce off each other so well and their matching hero personalities clash almost instantly. Thor agrees to take one of their space pods to go and fashion himself another weapon to fight against Thanos as he lost his hammer in Ragnarok. He’s then accompanied by Rocket and Groot.
This culminates in probably the worst segment of the film itself, the idea behind it is fantastic but Peter Dinklage, someone who usually puts in an amazing performance falls way short. He’s portrayed as a giant dwarf which almost feels like a bad Deadpool fourth wall break, almost as if to say to the audience “This guy is usually small, we’ve made him big. Isn’t that funny?” it wasn’t just his portrayal though but his voice was ridiculous. Remember when Thor first came out and people were doing their best Thor impressions. That’s Dinklage in Infinity War. I complain only because it took me away from the film completely. A big surprise about this film for me was the villain Thanos, played amazingly by Josh Brolin. We’d briefly seen Thanos in several Marvel films and we knew he was on his way to claim the infinity stones and wield the gauntlet, but why? Well the explanation actually had me thinking perhaps he’s not that much of a bad guy. Also his love for his daughter Gamora (Guardians) is beautiful and it really helps humanise him. We get a glimpse into a man and his struggle for saving the entire cosmos. We’re given a brief insight into his back story and we see many flashbacks to his past and this gives us one of, if not THE best Marvel villain in history. What would an Avengers movie be without the First Avenger, yes Cap is back boasting an epic beard and a much more kick ass attitude. His journey includes Black Widow, Vision, Scarlett Witch and Hulk as they go to Wakanda to see Black Panther. Their mission is simple, using the advanced Wakanda technology they will remove the infinity stone from vision before Thanos and his army reach him. Seems simple enough and with the Winter Soldier there they’ve got full back up. Everyone is in this movie! Except Ant-Man and Hawkeye (sad face). There’s a moment where Vision is willing to sacrifice himself but Scarlett Witch won’t allow that because of their love story. I understand that love is important but also the fate of the universe is pretty important too. She really doesn’t think about this. Love is a massive arc in this movie, we also see Starlord’s love for Gamora flourish a bit more and at one point this actually prevents the heroes from winning. A frustrating scene for the watcher but ultimately it’s a well embedded character flaw that we already knew about. It’s not just the story that is amazing in this film, the action sequences are fantastic. Whether it’s Spidey, Iron Man and Strange battling in NYC or all the other heroes battling in Wakanda against what I can only describe as nightmare fuel, it’s choreographed beautifully and it’s fast pace is matched well with the story. There’s no confusion about what’s going on or what’s happening and it paces itself so well all the way up to the heart breaking ending. Obviously you’ll have to stay through the credits for the standard Marvel end credit scene. You will need this time to sit and contemplate what has just been witnessed on screen. Make no misake the ending of Infinity War is not a happy one, there are no laughs, no smiles and there are a lot of tears. Avengers Infinity War has been ten years in the making. Though some films have fallen short we’ve always been given that overarching story that it’s all going to go down at some point. We’ve watched these characters grow and to see them all interact with each other on screen was to be completely cliché a Marvel.
Features interviews from the following: Bullet For My Valentine, Black Stone Cherry Shinedown, Parkway Drive, Goo Goo Dolls, Nothing More, S...
Published on May 31, 2018
Features interviews from the following: Bullet For My Valentine, Black Stone Cherry Shinedown, Parkway Drive, Goo Goo Dolls, Nothing More, S...