the latest chapter for them under the name of 'Vicious' whilst
Interview with Matt
Can you tell us how Milestones originally got together? Sure! We were all just a part of the scene and came together just because we really wanted to give being in a band a proper go! We were all the leaders in our old bands so it naturally worked really well. No one has an ego about it!
How did you get to the band name Milestones, and what does it mean to you? It’s about always striving for the next thing. I rarely celebrate. I will almost instantly achieve what I’ve been aiming for, for months/years and then just change to the next thing. We’re all super grateful but really motivated too.
What was it like to be an up and coming band in Manchester? We never really had a scene in Manchester to be honest! I booked tours back then and we just went straight into touring from the off. Manchester is better for indie/guitar-rock more so than alternative rock.
Was there a particular moment where you realised that you wanted to do this as a career? Great question - just growing up in the music industry was mine. I promoted my first show when I was 14, and I did that in order for my band to be able to get shows in Manchester. It’s always just been something I’ve loved and have hustled on. I don’t think there was a “moment” for me but I suppose my heart has always acted like I’ve always wanted it.
How did you originally end up signing to Fearless Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? We got noticed by Richard Reines (Drive Thru Records) who loved our hustle/mentality and introduced us to Fearless. Richard asked me who our dream label would be, and we instantly said Fearless, then got signed. It all fell together really nicely.
So, how did Slam Dunk Festival go, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from that weekend? SDF was great! Just being able to hang out with friends all in one place was awesome. The energy is great there because everyone feels the same way. It was weird seeing so many people, but it was so great!
How did you get to the album title 'Red Lights', and what does it mean to you? ‘Red Lights’ is about not stopping when the world tells you to. It comes from the lyric “I’m running red lights” from ‘This Is My Life’ (a band favourite) and it helps embody everything that Milestones (collectively & personally) are about - hard work and tenacity!
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Red Lights’? We listened to an array of artists when making the album. 30 Seconds To Mars, Panic, All Time Low, Mayday Parade were all huge influences for us in the studio - I think you can hear that in the versatility of the record. Lyrically it spans across my entire life from love, growing up, facing adversity etc - but it’s about overcoming it all and growing.
How did you end up working with Phil Gornell and how would you say he helped shape 'Red Lights’? Phil was so fundamental to our album. He slaved away with us in the studio night and day. He just worked on the new Deaf Havana record so check that out now! He’s super talented and mark my words, he will be a huge producer very soon!
For you, what was the hardest track to put together on 'Red Lights' and why? Damn!!! Err, probably ‘Once Upon A Time’, we did about 7 demos for it and it just didn’t click. Some songs do that, though. ‘Paranoid’ came together so quick, but ‘OUAT’ just took forever. We stuck at it and believed in it they’re both singles. There isn’t one specific way of writing a great song!
How would you say the sound of the band has grown/changed since you first started out? We’ve learnt how to write good songs, ha! I’ve got much better at singing personally, I’ve grown a lot as a musician and as a person. We have a great live sound now but we’re still (and always will be) learning.
Tricky question now. What band have you learnt the most from by touring with, and why? Definitely Mayday Parade. Those guys gave us a glimpse/insight of how to be if we ever made it big time. Humble/genuine people. (Their new album ‘Sunnyland’ is out now!!)
What else can we expect to see from Milestones in 2018? We’re planning our Autumn/Winter right now (so stay tuned!)
Can you tell us how I, The Mapmaker got together? Josh: So Jonny and I connected over a band advertising site, I think it was joinmyband.com and got together with our good friends Matt and Luke at the time and that's sort of the foundation from which mapmaker began. We had all been in band's before but there was an instant connection and we all felt like this had a different spark about it. We had been jamming for a while when we spoke to Ash. For me, Ash's introduction put all the pieces together, bringing all the ideas we already had, and fitting them into place whilst bringing the concepts and the band name that breathed life into everything. Over the course of writing and recording, Perry, the second Emery in the band became our bassist and Nathan as our second guitarist.
How did you get to the band name I, The Mapmaker, and what does it mean to you? Josh: Ash is the brains behind the name which I'll let him expand on but I just remember when we were sat around a table and asked if he had any name ideas as we had struggled to come up with anything original. Ash proceeded to tell us the story and I remember just thinking wow!
Ash: The name, the music, the lyrics, the mystery, everything has a very special meaning to me personally as I used the writing of the concept as a form of escapism when I had an awful dead-end job that did not stimulate me in any way. So instead of letting my mind wander and overthinking myself into a deep hole, I decided to use the time I was left with nothing to do to write the story that will eventually unfold onto everyone's lap as time goes by. The name was quite simply Mapmaker but we ended up expanding it slightly to incorporate more of a hidden feel that there is a central character in the concept side of it all. The concept loosely (as I don't want to give too much away) is about selfish people realising what they have lost by being the terrible person they have become over many years. Bottom line - It is wrong to put your own beliefs before another humans life, and trying to rectify that once itâ€™s happened is nearly impossible to do.
What was it like to be an upcoming band around Bournemouth & Southampton? Josh: Personally, I think it's been great, Southampton's scene is really buzzing right now, there are so many great band's and artists and some fantastic venues giving them a chance, Joiners celebrating its 50th year is incredible. We played our release show at the Joiners and it felt like an incredibly special moment, like it was our home for the night and every single person inside made it feel like so much more than a one-off gig. It felt like a community together and that's what I think is so special with the scene down here. Bournemouth I feel in recent years has been through a rough patch with venue closures and band's disbanding but those at the centre of the scene are real heroes and it truly feels like a resurgence is underway, we are fortunate enough to work with and be great friends with Dom Patience, if there is something music related in Bournemouth you will probably find his name involved in it somewhere! Also, The Anvil is a fantastic little venue that shines a lot of light on the new bands, all the time whilst being a stop on many band's tours despite its size.
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? Josh: We have started to get out on the road more with the release of our EP and
have shows coming up in Luton and Brighton along with some dates in Southampton and Bournemouth. We were fortunate enough to play Teddy Rocks for the second year running alongside our pals in Shields and Loathe and they somehow took an incredible festival and made it even better. As mentioned before our release show a moment none of us will ever forget, we also played a super fun floor show in ew with Ash & Josh was Basingstoke early this year; it was the first time we played songs that are not on the current EP ('Searching') and it felt so good to show everyone what's install for the next chapter!
So how did you get to the EP title 'Searching', and what does it mean to you? Ash: We always had the track titled â€˜Searchingâ€™ and wanted to have a title track but the meaning behind 'Searching' stems from the central concept that envelopes all the songs and themes. It is also about finding your own strengths and weaknesses as a person and learning from them.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Searching'? Ash: For now, we want to keep some of the concept meanings behind the songs for a later date, but the main themes would be love, loss, regret, and perseverance to name a handful! All of these songs mean so much to all of us, so a lot of personal experiences have gone into shaping the lyrical content as well as the songwriting of this record. From personal inner turmoil to long distance relationships and deaths in the family.
How did the music video for 'Capsized' come together, and if possible, can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind it? Ash: The video was so much fun to make! The small cabin in which this was filmed has belonged to my (Ash/Perry's) family for years so it worked out perfectly. After we added some smoke and lighting it was a truly magical setting for some narrative driven videography. The story behind the video itself revolves around a small part of the concept: in which Ordnance begins to search for his missing wife and child. Then once he returns to the cabin his mind has already begun to warp and imagine things that are not as they seem. We had a very fun time recording both of our music videos with the main man Oliver Duncanson. He has the midas touch when it comes to using a camera, also he is a fantastic human being.
How did you end up working with Lewis Johns, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Ash: Lewis ensured that everything was performed flawlessly and would make us redo anything he did not think was up to standard. This made sure that all the tracks were the best they could be on the final product. His experience in the industry really shone through and there was never a moment when we felt like we were not in control. He always was as excited with what we were creating as us! Also being able to record at the same studio that ‘Mourning After’ by Last Witness was recorded was a personal bucket list tick off.
What has it been like to self-release your own music, and do you think you'll continue to work that way as your popularity grows? Ash: I mean we've had so much fun doing it ourselves from sorting the artwork to making merch designs and booking our release show. Never say never though, I think it's on every band's personal band checklist to get signed to a label and tour the world. So we will see what happens! Our manager Dom Patience and Haaris at Public City PR have been the driving force for a lot of the opportunities we've already had and the large amount that we have coming up soon. It’s been incredible the support they have given us since day one of working with them.
How did the artwork for 'Searching' come together, and what does it mean to you? Ash: The artwork is one of my favourite things in the entire world! We approached Tommy Hampshire from the band Chalk Hands (if you have not checked them out I cannot stress doing so enough) and he was beyond keen to get to work on it. We fell in love with his hand-drawn style after seeing the artwork he did for his own band's release. Initially, we showed him the EP in its entirety and gave him some of the main story points behind the concept. At no point did we tell him what to draw and what not to draw and wanted to see what he got from the record itself. The end result is the utterly stunning artwork you see in the final product. Once you are aware of the concept side behind the EP you begin to see more and more references everytime you look at the artwork!
Hard question time. What band would you say you've learned the most from by touring/performing with, and why? Ash: Easily Shields and Loathe. We have become such good friends with both of them and every time we saw them play it blew us away. The energy, passion, and care they put into their performances are second to none. Loathe’s live show is also something to behold and helped solidify in my own mind how good the stage presence of a band can be.
What else can we expect to see from I, The Mapmaker in 2018? Ash: Now, THIS is a question, ha! Well, ‘Searching’ was very well received and we have 4/5 songs ready to be tracked and recorded. Our next milestone will be our debut album and we have a lot of little surprises in store which people will not expect. Although at the same time there will be the same level of intricacy and detail put into all of the tracks and lyrics especially. Along with some incredible friends helping us along the way which we will not reveal till a much later date. All I can say on that topic is......’Disbelief’ Part 2 is happening. We plan to play as many shows as we can to as many new people possible. We’re hoping to cross the ocean to Europe this year if we can! Expanding the concept and revealing more of its darker side is also on the cards, so keep a close eye.
So how did your set at Download Festival go? Sean: Dude, it was sick. We got out on stage, and were like â€œWow, people actually rocked up!â€?. There was a crowd of people. They were singing our songs and it was amazing. It was honestly incredible.
Josh: Yeah it was really good, it was like our 50th show, first time at Download. It was really special to see the amount of people that were there.
Also, how did your recent shows go at Slam Dunk Festival, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing there? Josh: Incredible, and a lot of fun. Download is a much bigger scale, but at the same time it was a very similar feeling. It felt very comfortable and like being at home.
Sean: It was an experience for us, just being all the way from Perth, so to be able to have the opportunity to play these shows is really awesome.
Interview with Josh & Sean Can you tell us about the formation of The Faim? Josh: Michael, Stephen and I all met at high school. We were all in the same music class and knew each other, we were like “You know what, let’s just start a band!”
Sean: It tied in perfectly, because while these guys were doing that I was doing drum covers on YouTube, and then Mike actually hit me up, and was like “Mate, come over, listen to a couple of songs, I like your songs so let’s see if we can do something!” then straight away, I went over. Since then it clicked, and stemmed from there.
How did you get to the name The Faim, and what does it mean to you? Josh: Deciding a band name is very hard. As it’s going to stick with us for our entire lives, then it had to be relevant for that long. We wanted something big, and we wanted something simple, something that’s going to catch the eye. We landed on Fame, and decided that we don’t really want the name Fame, so how can we work around that. We decided to spell it Faim and eventually found out that it means hunger in French. We were like you know what “This is perfect, it clicks and it is something that is going to be relevant for our entire career!” It represents our passion for music, and I hope that it inspires people to do the same as us.
How do crowds here compare to back home in Australia? Josh: We don’t have too much of a perspective on crowds in Australia, because we’ve done very little touring there. Both crowds are amazing, however, in the UK you can really tell that people want to know about you, and have a passion for music in general. After every show we’ll be at the merch desk for hours just talking to people, getting to know their stories and personalities and really create a relationship with them.
Sean: Music is such a powerful thing right now. I remember the Sleeping With Sirens tour where every body was coming out and getting into it. Now coming out here and seeing the same response, it’s been crazy.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Perth, Western Australia? Josh: For any band it’s hard to build a fan base. It’s about utilising every possible avenue to kind of develop yourself. We did everything there, going out to the street to hand out flyers and basically forcing conversation from people, asking them if they want to come to the shows. Meeting other bands, going to pubs, and just doing every little thing that we could. On top of that utilising social media was a big thing for us, doing covers of our favourite bands, if people messaged us we’d message back, and we’d just create that relationship and experience. When we were kids, that’s what we wanted. We wanted people to understand our passion for music. So we just try to offer the same thing.
So, how did you and John Feldmann originally meet? Josh: Well we originally all met through Instragram. It’s a pretty funny story. He basically put a post up saying that he was looking for unsigned bands with touring experience. We didn’t have any touring experience, but we put together a big email, saying about who we are, that we are dedicated musicians, and that we love what we do. We are willing to do whatever we can to learn, and be the best that we possibly can. We sent this to him with two of our songs at the time. Basically a couple of weeks passed, and we thought that nothing was going to come from it. Then we got an email from his assistant saying about work opportunities with John Feldmann, asking if we wanted to collaborate and start writing some music.
Sean: It stemmed from a face time call as well. It was incredible. Just doing a Face Time call with John, and he was asking what we can do to separate us from all of the other bands of today. How can we get a different sound or a different approach. We had a massive conversation, talking about everything. We actually wrote about 30 demos before we flew out to see John. So we were all like working back and forth throughout the process, and he’d send us feedback like one word answers even etc. Really grinding us to keep on working. As soon as we got over there, we were doing two songs a day. There was a lot of coffee. It was incredible, we learnt so much from everyone that came in. From Pete Wentz to everyone that’s supported us and helped us with the music that is about to get released.
How did you end up working with Pete Wentz on the track 'Saints Of The Sinners', and what was he like to work with? Josh: Just through John basically. It was never really confirmed, he just rocked up, and we were like “Oh wow, there’s Pete Wentz!”
Sean: Yeah, he did just turn up really! It was funny, because we are huge fans of Fall Out Boy, and when he came through the door frame fell, it was the first time seeing him, and we were there helping him with the door frame! It was a weird moment.
How insane has it been to have such massive support from bands of this level so early on in your career then? Josh: It’s mental. The biggest reason we’ve got this support is because what you see is what you get. We love music and what we do. Meeting people, and we love creating relationships. Being able to share that perspective I think is so important. Especially if you look at musicians today, with some of the bigger ones it’s hard to find that authenticity any more. We want to be that definitive factor, for people to see that we love music and that’s why we do what we do. That’s why people have responded to us.
Interview with Jordan
So, how did you get to the album title 'In Spite of Me' and what does it mean to you? I felt like someone was trying to ruin my year. They would post photos of people they knew I had problems with after we called things off and do malicious things just to spike my anxiety. Everything they did was in spite of me, really. To me it means to disregard someone’s emotions, although it can and has many other meanings.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'In Spite of Me'? The title of the album means betrayal to me.. not much else I can say. The album has an overall betrayal vibe. ‘Distant’ had more of an apologetic/upset vibe. Everyone’s interpretation is different. I want everyone’s experience to be different.
You've said that "'In Spite of Me' means more to me than anything I’ve ever done creatively", so can you elaborate on that, and a bit about how this album compares overall to anything you've done before? We were very proud of our first record but to be honest, I felt rushed emotionally. That’s not anyones fault, I was just going through a lot and I felt like I could’ve put more effort into it lyrically. I took my time on this record. I had things written down for a year and even added stuff the week we were recording. I’d stay up late some nights and get drunk just to get super emotional. That’s just me personally. The band also worked super hard on all of the songs, album art ideas, coming up with titles etc. I think we can all agree that this is our best release to date.
Who produced 'In Spite of Me', and how would you say they helped shape it? Alan Day from FYS and Derek Hoffman prouduced our record. We did pre-pro with Alan in his little remote studio outside of Boston. He helped shape all of the songs and structure some of the lyrics. It was totally worth the time off work and the experience was sick. I’ve always looked up to Alan as a vocalist so I wasn’t scared to work with him. Derek Hoffman. What can I say. This guy is one of the most talented singer/songwriter/producers I’ve ever met and have had the privilege to work with. He perfected every song and came up with solutions when we were stumped on things. Derek knew the vibe we were going for and just went with it. He knows what we like and our style. 10/10 would recommend.
What was the hardest song to put together on 'In Spite of Me', and why? I think ‘Something Missing’. You ALWAYS want to end the album with an emotional banger. That’s what this song is. It’s the end to a story. It had to be perfect in my head in order for it to translate how I wanted it to. Greg also had written the riffs to that song awhile back and they were constantly changing, so we never really knew the vibe. I guess I would say it was more frustrating.
How did the artwork for 'In Spite of Me' come together, and what does it mean to you? The album artwork was a collection of ideas that we all had. I think the yellow fits well after ending a relationship right before the summer. You can still be sad in the sun. It means a lot of things honestly. Letting go, seeing right through someone, leaving, anger.
Looking back on 'Distant Like You Asked', how happy are you with the album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Like Pacific? As I was saying earlier, I love ‘Distant’ but it was rushed for me. This is the best work we’ve done. I’ll say it 1000 times. It definitely was a little poppier sounding and live I tend to yell more. I think we got the attention of the right people from ‘Distant’ but now, we’re going to be a little more accessible to the fans that like faster/angrier stuff.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Distant Like You Asked’? ‘Worthless Case’. Hands down. It’s such a sick song to play live. Such a fun opening track, the chorus is soooo bouncy and I love it when people jump with it. It’s a god dang banger. Also.. ‘Distant’. Ha. People know the words to it the most and that gets me hyped.
What do you think you took from the creative process of 'Distant Like You Asked' that you maybe applied to 'In Spite of Me'? I’ll say one thing, from ‘Distant’, I learned to accept help with phrasing from people. I’m so closed off with that, I hate creative input into things I’ve written but hey, if someone’s going to make sure it makes sense and works, do it.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? The UK is so amazing to tour in. Fans treat you like gold, every city is so close to each other. I love all of the venues there so much. Maybe it’s because I never went until 2016 but wow. It’s cool to play different countries and the UK definitely holds up. Greggs till death.
What else can we expect to see from Like Pacific in 2018? You can expect the release of the record, some tours and shows we can’t talk about yet! That’s all you get for now. I guess you have just got to wait and see.
Interview with Charlie
Can you tell us how Seething Akira got together? I was a bit of a bedroom producer, but decided I really wanted to get out and perform live. I wasn't a fan of DJ sets and stagnant stage shows so looked to pull a band together, especially as I was a fan of crossover electronics and live metal. So, I went on the hunt for the members. I'm based in Portsmouth, and at the time Kit (vocals) was close by on the Isle of Whight. A mutual friend introduced us. Kit's vocals were perfect, no hint of an American tinge, and quite unique. We messed around for a few years until Stu (Drums) and Spud (Bass) came along to create our solid core of members. After that, things really started to take off!
How did you get to the band name Seething Akira, and what does it mean to you? Ah man, I want to give you some crazy story about a drunken night out in Japan but that'd be a lie. I've always loved anime and Manga, when I came up with the concept of starting the band, I had an Akira poster up in my room, the lead character on the poster looked pretty damn grumpy, you could even say "Seething", thus the name was born. See I told you it was boring!
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Portsmouth? Not bad! We're sandwiched between Southampton and Brighton so we're in a good location to hit some great music towns. Portsmouth (maybe as itâ€™s an island) doesn't always take to fresh, alien stuff, but we've always had great support from locals and friends.
So how did you get to the album title 'Sleepy Skeletor', and what does it mean to you? So, I was talking album names with a friend of mine, Pete, at a festival who happens to have very little hair, and looks a bit like a skeleton (yeah, attractive right?). He came up with a few names whilst we were a little drunk in a sweaty tent. When I mentioned these names to Kit, he joked and said "Funny names, I love that sleepy skeletor." The moment I heard it come out of Kit's mouth I was thinking "That's It!" So basically we have a bald drunk friend to thank for it.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Sleepy Skeletor'? We're known for our high energy tracks, and live shows. So we of course wanted to hit that hard, but also show people we have more creative juices flowing. With this is in mind the album is quite diverse, but I feel we never lose our “Seething Akira” twist. There’s some emotional tracks in there that mean a lot to myself and Kit on a personal level, and there’s also your straight up "Take your shirt off and jump around like a gazelle" bangers too.
How did you end up working with Jim Davies, and how would you say he helped shape the album? We didn't know Jim was producing until a friend from a music management company told us. Jim's pedigree is way up there, and after the first phone call we know he understood exactly what we were aiming to do. From then onward Jim's involvement has been invaluable. He's just a great guy that loves music. Jim's added ideas and advice to the album and of course production.
What was the most challenging song on 'Sleepy Skeletor' to put together, and why? I'd say ‘The Islander’. We move way more towards hiphop on that track. Historically we've tended to fill tracks up so we have quite a wide soundscape, with ‘The Islander’ it needed to have more room to focus more on the lyrics, but still be hard hitting in the right places. I think we got there, but it was a bit of trial and error.
How would you say the sound on this record compares to anything you've done before? We're proud of it. I think it's the best quality body of music we've created to date and that should show with the amount of time it's taken us. The best things come to those who wait and all that right?
How did the artwork for 'Sleepy Skeletor' come together, and what does it mean to you? We wanted to personify that hybrid/crossover theme in a fresh way. So having a guy from the 1800s as a half cyborg did the job. Again, being a fan of anime we wanted that look to it too. Oh, and having a MIC cable wrapped round his neck just tops it off.
What else can we expect to see from Seething Akira in 2018? UK tour, support to Pitchshifter, Cubinate and Byline Festival with a tone more in the works. Cheers Stencil, you lot rock!
Interview with Bazzle
Can you tell us how Massive Wagons originally got together? Five bored drunk mates looking for an outlet for years of being around watching others do the same, at the time we, apart from Adam T, were seriously under par in terms of musical talent, ha and we all had zero knowledge of how to go about things regarding gigs, promoters, venues, recording, but that's part of the challenge, what on earth could go wrong. It made us a super tight unit going through that together, we were all learning and we felt we were achieving things together.
What was it like to be an upcoming band around Carnforth? It was great really, it's one of those places where you know everyone and everyone knows you, it's a town, thereâ€™s a lot of people there, you start playing a few local gigs in the places you drink in anyway and everyone's there, Facebook wasn't very old at the time, we created the page and people started making noise on it. The noise was noticed and we started going to places like Preston, Manchester, Carnforth was a great central hub, not many bands from Carnforth, I like to think people were proud we were doing well and representing them. Either that or they are all just massive drunkheads!
How did you end up signing to Earache Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? The top dog Digby had heard our tribute to Rick Parfitt, â€˜Back To The Stackâ€™ on Planet Rock I believe, he had seen the band a few years before at Bloodstock also, I think he just really dug the track so he opened the lines of communication and messaged us on Instagram. I thought it was a windup! It took me 20 mins to open the message. I didn't even know you could get messages on Instagram, but apparently you can ha. But yeah, they are ace, a passionate, hard working knowledgable group of people, we couldn't ask for more.
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 a headline show which was mind blowing for us, it sold out on I think four dates and the rest weren't far behind. It was unreal. To sell the Borderline out in London was incredible, that along with an appearance on the hallowed Donnington turf, Download Festival. There's more stuff happening this year, but so far these things have really made 2018 great. Apart from constantly gigging we recorded the new album 'Full Nelson', it's always a great craic recording, being creative, overcoming problems, finally hearing the songs come together. It's what it's all about, apart from backing vocals, they can get rightly stuffed where the sunshine fears to tread.
We've read that "'Full Nelson' showcases the evolution of the band’s song writing both sonically and lyrically". So can you elaborate on that, and how you think the overall sound of the band compares to anything you've done before overall? We always look to top the last effort in every department, you've got to, as there are so many great bands about. You need to be noticed, and every album is a learning curve, you take the lessons to the next album, and try to add or take away things to make it better. I listen to lyrics all the time, Ginger Wildheart for me is just about the top of the pile in terms of lyrics, effortless genius. Amongst others, Knopfler, Vedder, Daltry, these guys are the best. We work in a studio, Axis in Doncaster, with a guy called Matt Ellis, we feel he's on our page totally, he too strives to improve, better his engineering, production. I truly believe that's the best studio sound in the country, or at least one of them. He gets incredible results.
What else can we expect from the lyrical approach on 'Full Nelson'? I just try to make it all interesting, funny, with serious edges. I try to deal with the modern world and what's going on. ‘Billy Balloon Head’ is about being a tolerant person, respecting the fellow man, don't be a nob with people etc. ‘China Plates’ is about the world of Facebook, it's not a stab at Facebook, merely the weird and wonderful world it creates within itself, ‘Northern Boy’ is about me and my family growing up in the North, I think that's my favourite track, as it certainly means the most to me.
How did you end up working with Mike Exeter on the track 'Robot (Trust In Me)' and how would you say he helped shape the track? It was Digby from Earache who suggested it, and I'm glad he did. We ended up re-writing the chorus entirely, and made it much much better I think, more melodic. Mike came in to simply observe and produce my vocals, he ended up with us for days! We did loads with Mike, re-recorded guitars, totally re-structured the song, the man knows his onions and he's a truly lovely guy. We'd never worked with an outside producer before, but I'd work with Mike again in an instant, we layered vocals, layered harmonies in the right place tastefully, yeah he's a real talented man, and it was a pleasure.
How did the artwork for 'Full Nelson' come together, and what does it mean to you? A fellow called Mark Leary came up with the final design, and he has absolutly nailed it!! He's designed a lot of our recent T’s as well. He’s a very talented guy. We threw some concepts around, ideas we'd had, images we found, we said we wanted a very British vibe, striking, memorable, a pre-war kind of look, industry, old England, and he came back with that, more or less off the bat. It's got everything the songs represented, the full Nelson wrestler, and we think it's marvellous. It was recently painted about 25 feet high on the side of the bands local home in Lancaster, a rock venue called The Pub in a bid to rally the city behind the new album. We are immensely proud of the pub, the artwork and Lancaster, so yeah it means a lot.
What else can we expect to see from Massive Wagons in 2018? Album release is the main event on Aug 10th, I cannot wait for that to come out, and see the reaction, reviews etc. That part of things is always a big buzz. Apart from that we've more festivals coming up, Steelhouse, Boomtown, Stonedeaf amongst others. We've some in store dates at the start of August to promote ‘Full Nelson’. It's all go, then we start writing the next album and plan the next tour I suppose, life's busy!
Interview with Josh, Sam, Andy
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? Sam: We’ve recently been out on two longish tours round Europe & the UK with Rolo Tomassi and The Contortionist. We’ve been spending time in parts of Europe we hadn’t been to before so we decided to ditch hotels this time around and camp instead. As such touring has taken on a completely different feel. There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning in the Alps, the Ardenne, the Black Forest or the south of France and going swimming in a crystal clear lake. We’ve been hitting up the tourist spots in cities like Ljubljana, Budapest, Bratislava & Prague and some of those twice this year alone. It’s always cool going back to a city like Prague and walking around in the day and at night - you get a real feel for the city - cheesy as that sounds. It’s only been over the last two years that we’ve really been able to get out to Europe properly and play to different crowds and it’s great to see people on this tour coming back to see us after shows we’ve done with Rolo Tomassi and Employed To Serve.
How did you originally end up signing to Silent Cult Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? Andy: Silent Cult are staffed by some of the most genuinely fantastic people you’ll find in the industry. I can’t remember exactly how we first started talking, but a few emails down the line and it felt like we were in really safe hands. Being such a small label, they’re really able to put in the time to make sure everything runs smoothly and drama free.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Braille', and what does it mean to you? Josh: There’s a general lyrical theme that helped bring the title to mind. Describing things through the senses was my way of trying to help people to relate in a slightly different way. But it also helped us give the record a very appropriate name. We wanted something that would perfectly sum up the feeling of the album. And that word is probably the most important. ‘Feeling’.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout the album? Josh: The album deals with some of the more difficult aspects of life, but most importantly the honesty needed to get through it when the times are testing. The songs are a sort of therapy for some incredibly difficult periods in between the release of ‘Beside The Ones We Love’ and ‘Braille'. As well as writing them to make sense of my own life, I wrote a lot of the songs in the hope that someone else might find them and use them to overcome a similarly difficult time in their’s. One of my favourite things about finding an album I was into when I was younger, was trying to figure out potential song meanings through the poetry in the lyrics. I’d be incredibly happy if I knew there were people doing that with anything I’ve written.
How did you end up working with Lewis Johns, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Sam: We have worked with Lewis on the previous two albums and it just made sense for him to complete the trilogy. He’s instrumental in getting us to focus and bringing out the most essential parts of the music we write. I wouldn’t say our music is the most complex, but it’s definitely not cookie cutter hardcore. After recording 6 or 7 variations of a riff, it’s Lewis that steps in and clears the air - “THIS part is the riff, THIS part is the variable: do you want it to be sad, jubilant, mysterious or quirky?” Then we can look at the song as a whole and make a decision based on his cutting of our BS. Some would say he mimics the behaviours of a dictator and I would agree, however he yields fantastic results so we let it slide. In all seriousness, if you’re in a band and looking to record, go hit up Lewis Johns at The Ranch. He will make your record better. Or die trying.
Your PR team have noted this record as a "real evolution" for the band. So for you guys, how would you say you've progressed/grown as musicians on this release, compared to anything you've done before? Andy: We’ve really put a lot of time into songwriting. More attention to what belongs in the song - finding what’s superfluous and what’s not. Over the last two records it was more a case of cramming as much Palm Reader into a song as possible. This time everything is a lot more considered, parts are serving the songs not themselves or ourselves. The decision to take a step back from creating another maelstrom of tech/spazz/aggro infused “hardcore” was definitely the best choice we’ve made as a band. There is no point in releasing the same record time after time (see tired “heritage” acts for more details). As much as a small portion of our fan base would love us to carry on cranking out the more aggressive shouty material, we can’t stay swimming in the same pool forever. First and foremost, we’re musicians and we have to grow or else we stagnate. PR could end tomorrow and we’d still carry on playing music in some form or another. Our music doesn’t just belong to the listener, it’s like a friendly dog at a BBQ - everyone is more than welcome to hang, but at the end of the day it comes home with us. I read an interview with Aaron Turner from Isis and he said that their songs find their final form around 2 years after they’re recorded. I really like that approach and we’ve tried implementing it in our live performance. I couldn’t imagine playing these songs exactly the way they’re recorded again and again ad nauseam - it’d just be like trying to re-create a record that in its nature just captures a snapshot in time. ‘Braille’ sounds the way ‘Braille’ did when we recorded it in April 2017. Now ‘Braille’ is evolving, not drastically, but improving incrementally every time we play it. It’s exciting and this approach definitely keeps us fired up and engaged. Hopefully people enjoy the ride as much as we do.
What was the most challenging song to put together on 'Braille', and why? Andy: 'Like A Wave' took about two years to finalise. It was always OK, but something didn’t sit right you know? Each iteration took many many MANY hours of rejiggering and arguing and eventually it took its final shape. It’s like a belligerent child that finally got its life together. Aside from that, ‘A Lover, A Shadow’ was a bit challenging. The song goes through two different tunings and a key/synth section. We had to address how we were going to do it tastefully and not just ham-fist into the middle of a tune. It’s music - it’s an art. Nine Inch Nails honed their craft over many years. I’m not drawing a comparison between us and them, but they’re definitely ones to take notes from in terms of how to marry guitars and synths. Maybe it’s something we’ll look into more in the future. Maybe not. Stay tuned…
How excited are you for your upcoming tour dates and what can attending fans expect? Andy: Ireland is going to be a blast. We’ve been before but only for 2 days. This time we’ll be able to spend a bit of time going around the country. 3 of the shows have almost sold out which is really promising. A lot of bands don’t tour Ireland because of the extortionate travel costs and it’s a real shame as there’s a whole country just sitting there crying out for bands to play. I mean, it’s cheaper to drive to Paris and play than it is to Ireland. Mental. Needless to say, we’re stoked on supporting Will Haven again. We went out with them a couple of years back with Raging Speedhorn and every show was a trip. I (Andy) being the resident OAP have been a fan since the ‘WHVN’ record so it goes without saying that I lost it when we were asked to support them the first time. Since then we’ve kept in touch regularly, traded album demos & first mixes and so on and so going back out with them this time as friends will be rad. Maybe even the raddest.
What else can we expect to see from Palm Reader in 2018? Sam: We’re planning on hitting the mainland once more in September for a week with Conjurer then again with Will Haven in October which we’re stoked about. The rest of the year will be spent starting to write album 4. We’re planning a “writing holiday” maybe Birmingham again? Who knows? We have some riffs in the bag already and we’re going to start seeing how they fit together and what form another album can take.
Interview with Justine & Sammy
So, how did your Download Festival set go!? Sammy: We had a great time. The turnout for how early we played couldn’t of been better. Honestly, we couldn’t of been happier really. Super chuffed. It was the first time playing Download, and we had a great time.
Would you say it was a career changing point for you guys? Justine: I think so, it’s one of the biggest metal festivals in the UK and a lot of Europe in terms of capacity and its representation.
Sammy: We would of played to a lot of new people as well, which is always really cool. How important do you think Download Festival has become to the UK? Justine: It’s vital, it gives legacy sort of bands and higher up bands a chance to reach new people, as well as of course for upcoming bands.
Sammy: That’s it, Download is really good at bringing in the younger bands. They’re not like catering to bringing the crowds in, or the same sort of bands. Like Justine said, it’s paramount for new and upcoming bands.
For this band, was there a particular moment when you realised that you had the potential to make something serious out of it? Sammy: We were always serious about doing the band. Not to the point of making it not fun. However, we always wanted to try and achieve personal goals. Download was one of them. I think from the get go we always wanted to be the best band that we possibly could be on a personal level. Just see how far we could take it. That’s the way any band starting out should be. If you want to be, be serious about it. But if you are constantly looking forwards, as cheesy as it sounds then you don’t appreciate the small stuff on the way. With all of our first tours, as much as I wouldn’t want to be doing that now for how long we’ve been doing this band, I loved it at the time. Some of my favourite tours that we did were from back then.
Justine: It feels like it’s so important to do those tours, and kind of cut your teeth as a band. It paves the way for events like Download. If we got asked to play Download two years or even a year and a half ago, I don’t think that we would have been ready. We wouldn’t of performed as well as we could of, and we wouldn’t of had that confidence. It feels like this came around at the right time. Similar things can be said for our Maida Vale sessions. It just came at a good time. We were two albums deep, and we had toured enough to really know each other as musicians.
So stepping out there at Download, you were maybe still nervous, but of course excited? Sammy: Yeah, but more just excited really! At this point you’re never not going to be nervous. I was watching something with Tom Araya from Slayer from one of the big four shows. He said how you never stop being nervous, and it’s true. It’s more like excitement. It’s not like stepping out there thinking that you can’t do it, it’s more like thinking “Wow, this is happening!”
Justine: I read this article about the chemical reaction that happens in you when you’re nervous and excited. It’s exactly the same thing. So depending on how you phrase it you’re either nervous or excited. You can switch it around!
Sammy: Yeah, and if there was no element of that, then it would be quite boring! Touring wise, what have you been up to this year? Justine: We did headline dates with Conjurer and God Complex. Sammy: We did a bunch of places that we either haven’t played in a long while or had never played before. It was interesting. We did Norwich, Leicester, Huddersfield, Cardiff. It was awesome, and we were genuinely overwhelmed with how many people that came out to the shows. They were the nicest venues and everyone was awesome. That was the last thing we did. We did a couple of one-off shows as well. We played Complexity Fest which is definitely one to look out for. We did a couple of shows with Code Orange as well. That was really good fun. It was kind of sporadic at the beginning of the year, and now it’s getting busy again as we’ve just finished recording our new album.
Justine: Yeah, we’ve just been concentrating on our new album. It was nice, as we normally record during the winter. So recording in the spring was different. It kind of fell at a really nice time, as we had a nice few select dates to play.
So, 'The Warmth Of A Dying Sun' just celebrated its first anniversary! Looking back on the album, how happy have you been with the response to it so far? Justine: It’s been phenomenal, and it’s completely exceeded our expectations. We’re still fond of the album. There’s always room for improvement, but for that moment in time we are very happy with what we achieved. It’s definitely helped us tick off more stuff on our bucket list. Like with a lot of bands on the second album it’s nice to sort of solidify yourselves and let people know that you are here to stay. A lot of bands don’t make it past the second album. So yeah, it’s a drawing pin, to show where we are now. It’s good.
I guess you’ve got to write for yourself? Justine: Yeah, we don’t get paid to do this. We’ve made a lot of personal sacrifices in terms of having a job that fit around it. Missing family functions. Eventually people get it, and realise that this is actually what you want to do. When they see you (especially family) doing things like Maida Vale which they recognise they then realise that this is something. It validates it. You’ve got to write for yourself, or what’s the point. You have to put your heart into it.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'The Warmth Of A Dying Sun', and why? Justine: 'I Spend My Days'! Sammy: Yeah, I always enjoy that one. I think ‘Platform 89’ is always my favourite. We played that today. ‘Platform 89’ as well as ‘Half Life’ are my two favourite songs from that album, because they have a bit of everything we do in them. They’ve got the big heavier riffs, as well as still having a bit of scattyness going on. Those are the songs where if someone asked me what songs represent ETS, then I’d say those ones!
Looking back on the album itself, what was the most challenging song to put together, and why? Justine: Probably the title track, as we wrote it last minute. Sammy: Yeah, it’s funny how things work out. 'The Warmth of a Dying Sun' and ‘Half Life’ were kind of late to it. We had the tail end of 'The Warmth of a Dying Sun' that riff, and we had the rest of the song. However, if you ever have the slightest feeling that a song isn’t good enough, then scrap it. That’s the rule of thumb, and I know it sounds brutal and harsh. I really liked that riff, but with the rest of the song I wasn’t feeling it. We are normally pretty well prepared before we go into the studio, but that one was just kind of niggling at me a little bit. I wasn’t sure about it.
Justine: You’ve got to be 100% sure about it. You’re your own worst critic. So if you’re not going to be serious with yourself then why should anyone else be serious about you.
Sammy: So yeah, we just got lucky. We weren’t happy with it, and then in the moment we came up with the rest of the song, and tagged the end riff onto the title track. That was the hardest. However, we’ve never really had the problem (for the most part) of riffs sitting about, that we don’t know how to slot into place.
Justine: It’s never been an arduous task. How excited are you be playing the album straight through?
Justine: It’s going to be nice to wrap up the album cycle properly with a whole album play through. There are about two or three songs that we haven’t played live before. So they’re going to be fun, as it keeps it exciting.
It’ll be cool to play those songs that you haven’t in a while as well right? Sammy: That’s it, because I always hate it when there are songs that are on a record that you haven’t had a chance to play live. It seems like unfinished business. Like what Justine was saying, it just happened coincidentally really. It’s kind of perfect that we have these anniversary shows to wrap them up. Not that we won’t play any of those songs ever again, but it might be a while until we pull them out. It will be cool to be like “That’s done for now!” I’m excited.
Justine: It’s just nice to properly draw a line under it, and celebrate the album in its entirety. Tricky question now. What band have you learnt the most from by touring with, and why? Justine: Personally I was quite inspired by Code Orange because of their drive. They’re so driven, and I really enjoy that. I’ve really liked them since their first album, and to sort of see them tour as relentlessly as they are. Just like “Yeah man, we are going to tour here, and here, and here” constant blinders, I found that quite humbling. I feel like they paved the way for bands like us as well. I don’t feel like they get enough credit for that. It didn’t stop at Metallica or the Big Four. It’s still here, and people need to take notice. They’re a great band for paving that way. Black Peaks as well, they are talented, and really friendly.
Sammy: It’s just maintaining that hunger for it I guess! Not getting complacent about it. Just being like “This is what I want to do!” Code Orange are a good band for that. It is exciting times, where it feels like heavy music is coming back into the mainstream a little bit. It’s refreshing to see. Sometimes with the bigger things going on you sort of feel excluded. We’re fortunate that everyone who we’ve toured with has been nice, we’ve never had a bad one. It’s nice to see people that are down to earth, who at the same time want to do the best show to the best of their ability. They want to do something in music, push forward and put a lot of hard work and effort into it. You have to. Lots of people look from the outside and see us touring with Code Orange, or playing Download and think like “Oh, they’ve got it easy!” but a lot of hard work and graft went into it.
What else can we expect to see from Employed To Serve in 2018? Sammy: More tours, new music. It’s going to sound really big headed, but I think our next album is our best yet. I could be wrong, but this is the first time where throughout the recording process we’ve just been 100% happy with it. Receiving the first mix back and being like “Yes! I’m so chuffed with this!” Hopefully it doesn’t back fire and people think it’s rubbish! So yeah, I think that this is going to be our best one yet, on a personal level anyway.
Justine: It’s cliché, but I feel like we are good judges of our own material. We like it, and that’s the main thing. This is our one.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Crown Shyness', and what does it mean to you? Crown shyness is a phenomenon where the edges of the canopy’s of trees grow close together but never touch. It’s naturally beautiful and served as a metaphor for loneliness and connection that was that foundation for the songs on this record.
We've read that "Trash Boat don’t shut the darkness out—they invite it in", so can you elaborate on that, and a bit about the lyrical approach on 'Crown Shyness'? I use my lyrics as a chance to dive into myself and challenge my thoughts, my feelings, my worst fears and anxieties. Being able to perform them live and sing every word over and over helps reinforce them and reminds me of my responsibilities.
You've said that "This song is a personal analysis of my inner monologue", so can you elaborate on that, and a bit about the meaning behind it overall? So this song is about the voice in everyone’s head. The little personality that lives in you and is a part of every decision that you make. It’s aways there to try and talk you out of making a bad decision and ready to chastise you for making them anyway. I must learn to live cohesively with them as I will never be rid of them.
How did you end up working with Andrew Wade, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Andrew effectively became a 6th member of the band while we were writing. He was an awesome guy. We were interested in working with him and reached out. It all kind of fell together.
How would you say the sound of Trash Boat has evolved/changed on 'Crown Shyness'? Definitely heavier! But a more cohesive heaviness that mixes with our pop punk roots. Lots of energy! We can’t wait to play these songs live.
What was the most challenging song to put together on 'Crown Shyness', and why? ‘Controlled Burn’. We wrote this song in a day while in the studio! It’s also one of my favourites but we’ve never written a song under that amount of time pressure before.
Looking back on 'Nothing I Write You Can Change What You've Been Through', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Trash Boat? I still am very proud of it. It serves as a great footing for our development and I’m still excited to play the most popular songs in our set!
Interview with Tobi Is there something that you took from the creative process of 'Nothing I Write You Can Change What You've Been Through', that you applied to 'Crown Shyness'? I tried to remember everything Soupy tried to teach me about performance while recording. Making sure that I believed myself whenever I would record a take and hoping I delivered the line so others would feel me and not just hear me.
How "excited" are you to be a part of the final ever Warped Tour, and why do you think this festival has become so iconic? Warped has always been something we view from afar in the UK or maybe even plan a holiday around. The fact that we are able to be a part of it is nothing short of an honour and a privilege. Every single band I’ve ever loved seems to have played Warped. It’s the most important festival in our scene.
How excited are you for your upcoming tour with As It Is, and what can attending fans expect? As It Is are our BOYS. It’s going to be an incredible tour. The fans can expect a whole bunch of new songs and me flailing about on stage as usual!
What else can we expect to see from Trash Boat in 2018? As It Is will be the last tour of 2018 along with Reading and Leeds festival. 2019 is where it’s at. Lots to come.
Interview with Ash
You've just taken on the main stage at Download Festival! How insane was that? Honestly, absolutely mind blowing. We were the first band to make noise today, it was a cool thing, and the fact that we were on the main stage is definitely a milestone. We got told that the second we started playing we set off loads of car alarms back stage. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing but we can put it on the CV!
Did the nerves kick in at all, when you saw the size of the crowd in front of you? It’s an indescribable feeling, I definitely think the nerves, excitement and fear hit you all at the same time. It’s a hard one to comprehend, and I want to do it again. The second I got off the stage I was like “I really want to be back on the stage!”
How important do you think Download has now become to bands here in the UK? Honestly, it’s integrable in the scene. It holds a lot of weight as far as heavy music festivals go. I feel like there’s not too many of them left any more. I don’t know how true that is, but as far as I know it’s one of the best ones!
What was the music scene in Blackpool like to be a part of? It’s a hard one! There’s no scene in Blackpool. We grew up in the DIY scene. There was just no specific genre playing, it would be like “Oh, this indie band is going to play with this metalcore band!” It was mixed bands all on the same bill, but it would work. A couple hundred people would turn up, and then there’d be one show in that venue, then they’d close it down because of underage drinking. There was never any place we could call home in Blackpool. Which is a bit of a shame, as it’s where we grew up, it’s where we live, and it’s our home. For a lot of reasons it’s been a difficult thing. We’ve played one show in Blackpool ever and there was about 10 people there!
Do you think you’ll go back? I hope so, I think it’s definitely going to be on the cards at some point in our career. We think it would be nice to have a Blackpool show, but I don’t know what’s going to happen with that!
Was there a particular moment where you realised that you had the potential to be more than just an upcoming band? That’s an interesting question. When we first started, it was just the premise that we were getting more and more tour offers. I had to keep ringing up work and asking if I could book off another month. Then they’d just get really mad at me. I felt like I needed to consider leaving my job. The second that I did do that, that was probably the moment where it was like “This is real life, this is what I’m doing for the foreseeable future” I couldn’t be happier for it, I’m glad. So far so good.
So, looking back on your debut 'Be Nothing', how happy are you with it still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Boston Manor? With that album, we wrote it a long time before it came out. I think by the time it had been released all of our tastes had changed quite drastically. The reception when it came out was pretty incredible, as we never expected anyone to care all that much. Honestly, it went better than anyone could of ever expected. We still love that album. There are so many songs on that record that I keep listening to now. We played most of them today as the new record isn’t out yet. They’re still just as fun as they were when we played them in the practise rooms. I’m so besotted with playing music and playing these records.
What do you think you learnt the most from being a part of ‘Be Nothing’? It’s made me think more outside of the box, compared to how I used to play. From a musicians perspective, all I used to do was learn covers. I used to go on ultimate-guitar.com and learn Parkway Drive riffs etc. It’s opened my eyes and a lot of doors when it comes to being a musician. I’ve just made a lot of friends, and I think that’s the most important thing right now. I couldn’t be happier with the friends that I have, and I wouldn’t have them if it wasn’t for the band. That’s the only thing that I really care about, and of course playing shows! There’s nothing better than playing a show, whether it’s a tiny room or something like Download. Obviously Download is insane, but yeah there’s nothing that really compares. When you’re on the stage, nothing else in the world matters. It sounds really lame and cheesy, but it’s just how I feel.
What songs are you still enjoying performing live from 'Be Nothing', and why? I really enjoy ‘Burn You Up’. It’s the first song that we normally play when we kick off the set. It’s got such a hard hitting impact from the off, and I think that it takes people by surprise. Also the actual softer song on the record, which is effectively the otherside of the spectrum from ‘Burn You Up’ is ‘Broken Glass’. It’s probably one of my favourite songs to play. It’s sort of moody and with that song you can just sit in a pocket and groove around. I really enjoy that song. We didn’t play it today, but it’s cool!
What can you tell us about your upcoming album 'Welcome To The Neighbourhood'? Lyrically, it’s matured a lot. It definitely hits on a lot of subjects that a lot of people don’t really care about these days! For now, that’s all I’m going to say about it. I like the idea that people can listen to a song or record, and apply their own feelings, and perception of it. They apply that to their own life, and that’s the way they connect with it. Even if it’s not the way we intended. There are so many songs that I hear, and I’m like “This probably isn’t what it’s about, but it’s exactly what I’m thinking about when I’m listening to it”.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour? Yeah! We’re taking out Drug Church, Wallflower and Microwave. Which are three of our favourite bands. We’ve got kind of big venues actually. It’s scary! I’m nervous and excited all at the same time!
What else can we expect to see from Boston Manor in 2018? Rock N Roll! We’re all excited, and in love with our upcoming record. We hope people get into it!
Interview with Sammy
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? This year we started pretty early out in Europe and the UK with As It Is and Grayscale which was hands down the coldest tour weâ€™ve ever done. Then we did another run in Europe at the festival Galaxy Camp and recently played Download fest. Download was a personal highlight for me because itâ€™s the first festival I ever went to at 16 years old. I never dreamt I would be playing it these years later and it was really special.
So how did you end up signing to Hopeless Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? Hopeless actually got in touch with us a long time ago and we agreed to move over when our deal with No Sleep was over. They seem very good to work with so far! Everyone seems very excited which is always a good thing.
How did you get to the album title 'Identity Crisis', and what does it mean to you? The album title originated from us just messing around with a lot of different genres and at the beginning every song sounded so different that it was just a melting pot of different material. It sounded pretty weird and we were almost worried at one point until it came together properly.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Identity Crisis'? It touches on a few subjects. We still have the tracks for the broken hearted but it also talks about not wanting to conform and searching for identity. ‘Bad To The Bone’ is about the haters and social media. Influences are a lot different on this one. We went back a lot and looked at bands like My Chemical Romance, Green Day and even Oasis.
What was the hardest song to put together on 'Identity Crisis' and why? In the end they all came pretty naturally. Vocally the last song I recorded was ‘Hide Everything Sharp’. I tried to record this first but it didn’t work so I ended up changing it entirely whilst recording the rest of the record. It wasn’t too tough though.
How did the cool artwork for 'Identity Crisis' come together, and what does it mean to you? We want this record to feel like one whole piece rather than a few songs put together so we used the arcade machine referring to the album as the game with the listener as the player. The “Insert soul here” is basically you dedicating your soul to this record. It also has the demon kid looking back as it’s another touch on society these days and how social media has taken over and it’s not always for the best.
How did you end up working with Seb Barlow, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Seb is a very good friend of mine. He’s worked on all three of our records now. I’d say he did the same as usual and added ideas, cool little filler parts and he made the instrumentals pop. Seb is great to work with, I’ve never been anywhere else.
You've said that on this record there was a "desire to push the band’s songwriting, take chances, and bring some swagger into the album." So can you elaborate on that, and maybe how you've grown/progressed as WSTR on this album? I feel like we stepped out of our comfort zone a bit but it ended up being a lot more comfortable than before. This record is a natural progression and I feel we concentrated more on the science of songwriting in comparison to previous records. We stripped it back a lot and concentrated on chords to leave people hanging in the right places etc. It was really fun.
Looking back on 'Red, Green or Inbetween', how happy have you been with the reception to the album, and what do you think it's done for the representation of WSTR? I feel like ‘RGOI’ was the record it needed to be at the time. I’m super proud of it but I think if it came out now maybe nobody would care. It seemed to get our name about though and we did some really cool stuff off the back of it.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Red, Green or Inbetween' at the moment, and why? The singles are always cool to play. ‘Featherweight’, ‘Footprints’, ‘Eastbound & Down’, and ‘Lonely Smiles’. They’re usually pretty loud.
What else can we expect to see from WSTR in 2018? You can expect our new album ‘Identity Crisis’ to come out on the 31st of August with a record release show in Liverpool on the same day. We’re also heading out to America for the first time with Neck Deep. A bunch of other stuff we can’t talk about yet! Ha.
Interview with J
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Suffolk? Dougie: It was tough! Those Suffolk days! Adam: We had a band called Grand Designs. We moved from Leeds to Suffolk, and met Mark on the first day. We were in a band with Mark by Wednesday. Mark played ‘Hammer To Fall’ by Queen by Thursday. Then we just chilled on Sunday! It took a long time, we got in a band with Mark when we were 14. We got a record deal when we were 26! We all moved to London in our 20s and ended our Suffolk ties. So yeah, when people ask where we are from, we’ll say we are mainly a London band, but we came from Suffolk! There was actually a really good music scene there. I’m not sure what it’s like now, but it was great when we lived there. A lot of bands, a lot of venues, and a lot of help. It was encouraging, and really good.
Jason: Yeah! Also, it’s not a Craig David song Adam!
Was there a particular moment when you realised that you were going to be a career lasting band? Jason: We just knew that we wanted to do it. Suffolk is amazing, but it wasn’t the most competitive of places. So we always had that “As soon as we can every day we’ll be in London” mentality. No matter what it cost. We had the best of both worlds.
Adam: From being twins, you always get negative and down about stuff. You’ve always got someone to lift you. We’ve always had this approach that with every 100 things that go wrong, if one thing goes right then that’s enough. It still happens. No matter how successful a band gets, it’s probably the same with McFly. So much goes wrong that no one ever knows about. There’s always a good thing that happens, that gets you to the next level. That’s all we’ve ever needed really.
So, for those that don't know, how did Dougie end up joining the band? Dougie: Well I met these guys when I was about 18. Jason produced records for McFly. Jason has been part of that McFly family since then. When these guys supported Hell Is For Heroes I got asked, because they needed a bass player. I kind of know how to play bass, just about! There’s only four strings!
So, you did these shows with Hell Is For Heroes back in February, how did they go? Adam: Super fun!
Jason, Adam, Dougie Dougie: It was one of the most fun tours I’ve ever done! Adam: It was pre-beast of the east. If that tour had been a week later, we would have been right in the eye of the storm, and that would have been a different answer. That tour missed it by three days. The first day was quite warm, for early February we all commented on how mild it was! Ha. So much can change in two weeks. It was a great tour, and we loved it. The crowd were quite receptive. So much so that we decided to do it again later on this year!
Dougie: Did we comment on the weather like that? Ha! “It’s so mild!” On the Hell Is For Heroes tour you said that Dougie brings the overall age of the band down, but seriously what does he bring to A? Dougie: Just that! Adam: Yeah, and good shirts! Jason: We wanted to have a bit more (and I hate this) of a pop punkish looseness. For it to be a bit more fun. In a Beastie Boys way. By the end of our career I thought that we had got really boring, and that we’d lost all of the personality that had made us A! Our last record, I can barely listen to. It’s really boring, lumpy. It’s really well recorded, but there’s no heart in it. We said that, if we were ever to do the band again, even if it was just for a week. We have to do it as us, and as people. Dougie is like the closest to me and Adam that we’ve ever met outside of the band. So yeah, Dougie brought a lot more of that to A. It’s fun, Dougie is the best bass player I’ve ever recorded, and I’ve recorded a lot of bands in the studio. He has got that instinct to play properly, whilst adding something else to the song.
Dougie: I just love being a part of this band. It’s super fun!
Leading on from this now, and I guess this is quite a broad question, but if possible, how does touring now compare to when you started out in the 90s? Jason: It was easy then, because we had a big crew, tour buses, and a lot of production. However, with the label side of it, we had that kind of feeling of having to do well and sell records. I say to bands in the studio, that you’ve got to get yourself into that place where if you really care, then you’ve got to go to that point where you don’t care in a way. That’s when you do your best creative stuff. In the last days of our band we cared so much that we stopped being good at all of the things that made us good. It doesn’t matter how much you want it. If you’re boring no one cares. So we’ve kind of got that old mentality back, the old things that we love about our band have come back. We really enjoyed playing the gigs.
Adam: Yeah, we’ve still got the production, we just haven’t got a big crew! The main thing is that we wanted to hang out as mates again. We’ve got a business Jason and I. Doing business stuff everyday. Jason is producing as well. We just wanted to see our old mates again, and have a laugh. It turns out that playing music is the best way of doing that.
Jason: Back on to what Dougie said. We had this one thing with our band, where we could never have a bad gig. That was our one motto, no matter what happens. However, when things went wrong on stage, those were the best gigs.
Dougie: Coming from an audience perspective as well. I’ve gone to see bands, and when things go wrong, I’ve loved it. I went and saw New Found Glory years ago. They were filming a gig at the Forum. The power went down for a good 45 minutes. It was awesome, because they came back out. They got everyone to be quiet, and played this acoustic show until the generators came back on.
Jason: Yeah, those are the things that you’ll never forget! Your last gig before that A gig was the 02. So you’ve gone from that to playing with us for one rehearsal, to then be supporting Hell Is For Heroes in Bristol.
Dougie, how does touring with McFly compare to touring with A? Dougie: They are very similar. McFly are just a whole bunch of jokers, and so are these guys. It’s pretty much the same really. Just literally messing around. Like Jason said that’s how you get the best result. By messing around, and having fun. That’s how you play the best shows, and write your best music. That’s how everyone gets into music in the first place, right, because you don’t want to go and do a boring job. You want to go and have fun with your friends, and not be serious and moody!
It's been 21 years since the release of 'How Ace Are Buildings'. Looking back on the album, what do you remember the most about putting it together? Adam: We were in LA for six months. We had no money and we went into a major record label deal. They asked us where we wanted to do our album, we said “LA”, “Who with?”, sure “Thom Wilson!” who did all of The Offspring records. We were in Southern California for six months doing that, it was amazing. Then we put it out, and no one cared! Not even our record label. I remember playing Reading, we played the Vans Warped Tour stage just before Blink-182. It was amazing! The only person there who cared was our press girl Emma (who is here today!) who is amazing. Nobody liked the album we handed in.
Dougie: That album has some of my most favourite A songs on it! Adam: Yeah, they thought they signed a British Supergrass. We went along with it, because we got a massive advancement. We got to do what we wanted, free snowboards and stuff! Then we did the record, and it sounded like a pop punk album. It has got some Britishness to it, we hope, as we always wanted that. However, it wasn’t the album they were expecting. It was a long hard slog, doing loads of shows a year in a little van with our mates. It was amazing. Now we are old, and sort of wise. We always say to bands that that bit where you are going up the hill, is the best bit. It’s all about the climb, it really is. As soon as you reach the top and it dips a bit, it’s all about salvaging it. You’re not salvaging it going up, you’re just having a good time. Fortunately we had some good people at the label, and a good manager who all stood behind us, and got us to ‘Monkey Kong’! It was just those baby steps. Then ‘Monkey Kong’ was just enough to get us to the next one! That whole period was amazing. Playing as many gigs as possible. We became this band that toured with everyone, and supported everyone. We learnt our craft by doing it.
Jason: Our first gig on the ‘How Ace Are Buildings’ tour was in Leeds, and there was one guy there called Duncan, who had a dog. He ran around the whole venue on his own with his dog, and then we went back, and there’d be 4-5 people. So we’d just keep going back until there was 3000 people there. That’s when we knew it was a proper gig. So yeah, we started from one person, and we had no radio coverage. We just kept playing.
'Hi-Fi Serious' was also obviously a huge hit, however, for you, when you look back on it, why do you think it become so relatable to so many? Jason: It was a good album, and it was really of its time. Adam: Luckily for us at that time, bands like POD were on Radio 1. Radio 1 were playing more rock bands. So the next moment we get a phone call saying that we were on Radio 1, and that we’d been a listed. Then we did Top Of The Pops etc. It didn’t feel surreal, it felt normal. Loads of other bands that we grew up with were all on the radio as well. We found a bit of luck for the first time in our career. At the same time it was a good album.
Dougie: I was a fan! I bought the CD! How excited are you for your upcoming ‘Hi-Fi Serious’ tour, and what can attending fans expect? Jason: Well, if we do it in order, then that means we have to start with the best song first. Dougie: No, we can’t do it in order. I did that with McFly. Do what New Found Glory did. Play the songs in a different order so that people don’t know what’s coming next!
Jason: What if we had a wheel, and we just played what it said when it stopped? Adam: The wheel of justice! Dougie: See, this just works!
Interview with Justin & James
How excited are you to be at the mighty Download Festival then? Justin: Hell yeah, it’s been a while. We haven’t done a festival for a good 15 years. In some ways, they’re the most fun shows. There’s less time and thought involved in preparing, setting up, you just get up and play.
James: Yeah, it’s quite Hell Is For Heroes really, to just not overthink things too much and to just get on stage and start playing, it’s weird that it’s been that long since we’ve done festivals, and we only really did them on the first album. Since then we didn’t really do festivals. However, we had a couple of summers of really intense festival touring. We played a lot of awesome festivals across Europe. I think it was the summer of 2003 where we knocked on nearly 30 festivals. It was just awesome, it’s nice to be back.
Talking of festivals. Do you have a couple of festival highlights from over the years that you can share as HIFH? Justin: We did OzzFest before it became Download. That was great! In those days we were playing in tents, and I always like the tent vibe.
James: Yeah, that was always really our level of playing, and we were quite comfortable there. It will be nice to be outside. This is probably one of the biggest slots we’ve ever had. It’s been quite a journey. We’re looking forward to it. It’s great.
So you guys hit the road earlier on in the year to perform ‘The Neon Handshake’ in full! So what was that first show like, when you hit the stage as HIFH once more? Justin: Amazing. It was very natural actually. Shows are shows, they’ve always been the same for us from when we first started. Whether we’re playing little toilet venues or big festivals like this. Once we get on stage it’s just 30-40 minutes of blur and mayhem, and being completely out of control, but kind of trying to control it. We just love it, whatever it is. The setting almost doesn’t matter to us. We’ve played shows in front of one man and his dog, in front of thousands of people. When you’re into it, and you’re feeling it, a show is a show.
Were there any songs from that album that you really enjoyed re-visiting live in particular? James: To all of us with the album as a whole, I don’t think anyone feels like there’s a weak song on it. With the writing process we made sure that we did the best we could with every single song, we didn’t really want any kind of filler on it, every song has got its own unique finger print. There’s something special about all of them, we write by committee, so you know everyone’s DNA is in it. Every single tune is special to us. When ‘I Can Climb Mountains’ starts that always gets a great reaction, but I wouldn’t say I prefer playing it to any of the others.
Justin: It really feels like the songs are physically are a part of us, I don’t know whether it’s because of the stretch of time that has passed but it’s like guttural when we play it. It feels like it’s coming from our bones, we’re not thinking about it at all. It’s a testimony to how awesome the songs are.
Was there a particular show that just really stood out to you guys? James: For me, I would say the London shows, just because we are a London band. We are kind of based around Shepherd’s Bush, it’s where most of us went to school, and it’s where we rehearsed. That was special, when Shepherd’s Bush Empire was put out there as a place to play, that gave us an extra incentive to make it happen, as we’ve never played there before. We did two nights, which was mind blowing really. To be fair, places like Glasgow and Manchester they’re places we’ve been to on every tour, we must have been into some of those venues countless number of times supporting bands and headlining through the years. We’ve always had a great following in those towns. The crowds were great for the whole tour.
Justin: We’ve never done two nights anywhere! It’s weird seeing really young people, like kids at our shows, who must have been barely out of nappies when that album came out singing along to the songs. It’s like “Wow, where did these people come from!” It’s surreal.
Going back to the set you did a couple of songs from ‘Transmit Disrupt’, your self-titled and even B-sides! So how hard was it to pick which couple of songs from those albums you wanted to perform live? James: We rehearsed a few. I think we had the option of playing like six of the songs, and we kind of just settled on those. They felt the best when we were playing them, and they worked the best in the set. The initial idea was to change it every night, but we just thought that they worked, so why mess with a formula that seems to be working. The thought process was to just try and make it the best possible show that we can. They were the songs that we were playing best, that felt the best for live. That was the only reason. Obviously we needed to play other songs, the B-sides were important as well, we had some cracking B-sides on that album (’Neon Handshake’), so we threw a couple of those in.
So how did A and Vex Red end up touring with you, and what were they like to be on the road with? James: When we were talking about the tour, Vex Red popped up instantly and we were on board with that. It was just going to be us and Vex Red. Then some mutual friends (we know those guys anyway) spoke to somebody about going out on tour, and then someone spoke to someone (etc) and said that “Hell Is For Heroes are about to announce a tour!”, and A said that they’d love to get involved. It seemed like a no brainer to have A on the road with us. It was nice, and it made for a great tour. It was all veterans together, there were no dramas, everyone knew the rules and knew what to do. We all got on. Across the board, it was awesome.
Leading on from that how did touring now compare to how you'd tour in the early 00s? Justin: We played all sorts of venues really. I think probably playing theatres, those were the shows that I always wanted to play. Any bigger and we would probably get a bit lost. Particularly those kind of old Victorian Theatres that have some kind of spirit, probably ghosts hanging around. It added to the whole atmosphere, and it was a real celebration.
I want to talk about your last self-titled album which is now 11 years old. Looking back on that record, what do you remember the most? Justin: In some ways it was the most organic writing process that we’ve had. At that point we were already winding down as a band. There were no expectations from other people or ourselves, we just wrote the songs that felt completely natural to us. We did it more or less or on our own. For me, out of all the albums it has the most in terms of our own kind of identity stamped on it. That’s why we self-titled it, also because we’re far too lazy to come up with a proper album name.
James: It’s probably one of those albums where when I listen to it you can really tell if a producer has been involved with the album, and when they haven’t. Sometimes I listen to it and think that we could of done things differently, but like Justin said we did it on our own entirely. Which overides any of the feelings of “Maybe we should of done this etc.” Those are the decisions that we made, we stuck with it, and that’s what the album is. It’s so organic, and it’s just us. It’s probably the most genuine Hell Is For Heroes album that we’ve done. It was pure DIY.
How important was it to just make the record you want, and not just put out music to please certain people or even a record label? Justin: Yeah, we had a few struggles with that. We were writing songs that were different to the first album, and quite a lot different to the bands that we were being compared to at the time. Sometimes, when you are on a big label, you subtly get pushed in a direction of either what you were doing before or what other people were doing. I think we got to a point where we like “This is the record we want to make” and they were like “We’ll just let you go, if you’re not going to put up” we just said “Fair enough.” It was a completely amicable split, and much respect to EMI for entertaining the possibility of putting out our music. We were never going to be Coldplay to be fair, so it all ended up for the best. We ended up making a record that was honest, and that’s the one thing that we’ve tried to do on every record. We don’t try to be a band that we’re not.
James: With that album, there were struggles within the band as well for where it was going to go musically. It got tense. It was almost like EMI didn’t matter at the end of the day. Once we all got on board, and we all knew what we were doing, and we all had our vision. It was like “This is what’s going to happen!” If EMI don’t like it, that’s up to them. We decided as a unit that we had got our focus. We had no ambition to entertain them in the slightest. They had ideas and we just said “no”. It was just one of those things, where if you don’t like it, tough luck. They didn’t like it, so we went and recorded it ourselves, and released it.
Justin: It’s a very similar situation, in which a lot of bands get caught up in. Particularly when you or the people around you are so desperate to make a success, it really does just mess with the creative process. Once we were off doing it on our own, the tension between us just completely dissolved. It was like “Oh, this is what we are supposed to do. Make a record!” not like strategize, play a game, think about where we were going to be positioned.
What else can we expect from you in 2018? Justin: Just more death and destruction!
Interview with Chris
How did you originally end up signing to Dine Alone records, and what have they been like to work with so far? We’ve been a part of the Dine Alone family since 2013, when we released our 4th record ‘Dead Language’ on their heavier sister label, New Damage Records. Once we knew what kind of record we had on our hands with ‘Inviting Light’, it made sense to move on over to Dine Alone Records, and it’s been really great working with the folks there. As it was with New Damage as well. There’s a really great and eclectic roster of bands signed to these labels, which also translates to new and eclectic ideas from the people working at the labels to help our band.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We just got home from our first full Latin America tour, and that was truly something else. Being able to travel to those corners of the world and play our music for folks who maybe never thought they’d get to see us was a really powerful feeling. Before that we ripped through Europe with Hot Water Music and Tim Barry, which was a total blast as you could imagine. Cold beers in the hot German sun with that crew is definitely something to remember for the rest of our days.
So, how did you get to the EP title 'Mass Candescence', and what does it mean to you? It’s just a little play on words signifying the continuation of ‘Inviting Light’. We feel like we’re burning bright on these songs, and they’re all cut from the same cloth as ‘Inviting Light’ so it made sense for us to try and take advantage of the English language a little bit and connect the dots between album and EP. We always wanted to call an EP ‘DAMN’ but that idea’s definitely off the table now… We were beat to the punch.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Mass Candescence’? Though they’re bright sounding songs, thematically they’re sad and somber. Sometimes age comes with some harsh truths, and big changes, and in these songs we explore how even the smallest examples of those shifts in life can feel. We touch on heartbreak and the abuse of love, having a firm belief that some people are straight up full of rubbish 24 hours a day, and how beautiful it is when childhood friendships can last through adulthood, even when there are a few hiccups along the way. Life will continue to grow and evolve, and you’ve just got to be OK with going along for the ride.
What was the most challenging song to put together on 'Mass Candescence', and why? Choosing the songs was the hardest part for sure. We’ve got a little pile that we’re pulling from, and it’s never easy choosing one song over another. And on top of that, we as a band have a common goal, but the four of us are all pretty different people, so we all usually like different things about each song. But I think we chose the right ones for this EP in the end.
How did the artwork for 'Mass Candescence' come together? We wanted it to be a tip of the hat to ‘Inviting Light’ visually as well, so our good friend Jonathan Minto - who took the cover photograph for ‘Inviting Light’ - got to work on another beautiful shot near his home in England that we could easily tie together with the theme of the album that came before it. We’re lucky to have such talented friends.
Looking back on 'Inviting Light', how happy have you been with the response to it, and what do you think it's done for the representation of The Flatliners? It feels amazing to have shown this side of us as people, as songwriters, as a band, to the world. I think we may have confused some people at first, and that’s OK. That’s good actually, because music shouldn’t be the same thing over and over again. It shouldn’t get stagnant. As an art form, it’s meant to be explored and tweaked, and that’s what we ended up doing. And now, over a year in since it’s been out, we’ve had a lot of people tell us how much they enjoy the different kind of ride we were able to take them on. And it’s a ride we’re still enjoying as well.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Inviting Light'? My favourite song to play from ‘Inviting Light’ right now has got to be ‘Unconditional Love’. The peaks and valleys to that one translate so well live, and the explosion at the end allows us to really let ‘er rip at a show. It feels good.
Also, what do you think you took from the creative process of 'Inviting Light', that you will now use going forward as musicians or even songwriters? Trust your gut. If it feels good, keep doing it. If it feels new, keep trying it. If it kind of scares you, just go for it.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK? I still think back fondly to the first time we ever set foot in England to play shows. Ten years ago we played a few tiny, sweaty shows in Camden, Bristol and Exeter, to rowdy crowds who seemed to know more words than I do! We’ve made some amazing friends in and out of bands, that we still see when touring in England to this day. We’ve been fortunate to have played a lot of great shows, big and small, with some really amazing bands, in the UK. The first time we sold out the Underworld in Camden was a big moment for our little band for sure. We always leave the UK with smiles on our faces, and sizeable buzzes on too.
What else can we expect to see from The Flatliners in 2018? A little rest, and then there are many gigs to be rocked. We’ll be back in action soon and ready to shred.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? This year we've hit the road hard, first touring as part of the Impericon tour and now on our summer festival run in support of the new album. The festivals have all been insane this year and the amount of people we are playing to daily is honestly breathtaking!
How did you end up signing to Music For Nations/Sony Music, and what have they been like to work with so far? We've known the guys behind the label for years and so when our time with our old label came to an end it was an easy transition for us. They are very easy going and are focused on giving us the time and support to release songs and albums our way. That really is all you could ever want from a major label.
Interview with: Davyd So, how did you get to the album title 'Black Flame', and what does it mean to you? ‘Black Flame’ is how we've come to describe our fans around the world. They spread far and wide and when they share our music with others the fire continues to spread. The song and album is about how amazing and organic our growth and fan base has been, and how over the 10 years of becoming a band they have become an unstoppable force pushing us to the next level again and again.
How did the animated video for 'Knife of Gold' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? I really had a vision for the video and I’m so pleased that Ollie at Better Feeling Films got my mind completely. He understood exactly where we are coming from and the result was the vision I’d had from the start. The video is just a representation of how, if you allow it, the industry will hew you up and squeeze you for everything you have and leave you with nothing. The video is about destroying the conceptions and process of that and rebuilding it in our image, not the other way around.
How did the artwork for 'Black Flame' come together, and what do you want it to mean to your listeners? We wanted our fans to have a banner to fly under, an iconic symbol that they could call their own. That’s what it is. The cover says it all - our fans are all we will ever need and so that’s why the symbol sits only on the cover.
Who produced 'Black Flame', and how would you say they helped shape it? It was a collab between Mike Curtis and Dan Weller - Two producers that we had worked with on all of our albums to date. To have more time when recording really gave us the ability to explore the songs and make sure the album as a whole really encapsulated what it is we were trying to convey. Their input has always been massively important to us, by working with them for so long the communication between us became so strong. We all knew the direction the record was going in before we'd even laid a track down
What was the most challenging song to put together on 'Black Flame' and why? The hardest part was deciding on what stayed on the record and what was cut - We wrote several songs that we loved but on reflection they didn't at all fit with the sonic space of the record. For us it was important to keep the flow of the record natural and fluid. As much as we loved the others the record now stands as a continuous body of work on its own.
Looking back on 'Earthbound', how happy are you with this record still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Bury Tomorrow? ‘Earthbound’ was a record which really captured our live sound and focused on how we'd always come across live. It’s a very special record to us and in no way has it been made less of an achievement because of ‘Black Flame’ – It’s simply a different take on BT. The songs still are amazing in a live setting and they won’t be being retired any time soon
Also, what songs are you still enjoying performing live from 'Earthbound' at the moment, and why? We enjoy playing all of them, in fact we enjoy playing all of our albums, it’s getting increasingly more and more difficult to actually create a live set list now because we have so many songs people want to hear that often we won't be able to include everything. That’s definitely a great thing and means that our headlining shows are a lot more fun and full with huge tracks for our fans.
What else can we expect to see from Bury Tomorrow in 2018? Lots and lots of touring and a new record! there's so much of the world we have yet to see and we cannot wait to get out there and explore
Interview with Kent
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Auckland, New Zealand? Tough, to be honest. Kiwis love music, so that wasn't the problem. But the country is just too small and too far away from the rest of the world to be able to easily get out and tour professionally. It's like two of the best things about New Zealand - how far away and under-populated it is, are the worst things when you want to be a band playing 200 shows a year.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Catacombs', and what does it mean to you? I got the idea when we had a day off on tour with Tremonti in Paris. We went to check out the Paris Catacombs. I instantly loved the place, but was struck by the dichotomy of the whole thing. The fact that you have over 6 million diseased and decaying skeletons buried just 5 stories below everyday Paris street life, where people are sitting in sidewalk cafes, drinking coffee. That hit me as a metaphor for how we're taught to live. We're told to keep a "brave face," a "stiff upper lip," just bury within all of the negativity: all of our problems, all of our issues, and carry on like nothing's down there. So with this album, we wanted to face and reconcile what we have buried inside.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Catacombs'? Aside from the theme of introspection, there's a theme of social commentary, which is new to us in the sense of injecting it into the music. Being in a band, we realized we're fortunate to have this platform to speak our minds, and that we have people out there listening. So we've seen that opportunity as a responsibility to use music to speak up about what we see as some social and political injustices going on in the world. Songs like ‘Pure Evil’ and ‘These Are The Bridges You Burn Down’ deal with that.
How did the artwork for 'Catacombs' come together, and what does it mean to you? Our lead singer Chris was the one who had the idea of using the classic Rorschach Test for the album artwork. We've always been intrigued by the concept behind them, and just thought they looked pretty ominous and badass, to be honest. So once he had the idea I painted a series of them that we used throughout the booklet artwork. This album is about revealing and exploring what's inside, and that's exactly what the Rorschach Test was invented to do.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Catacombs' together for you, and why? Well we wanted to make sure we felt it as an album with absolutely no filler, and that takes time to assemble. Some songs like ‘The Bitterness’ or ‘Complicated (Stitches & Scars)’ came together almost instantly, others like ‘Catacombs’ or ‘Pure Evil’ were more of a puzzle. Then when you solve the problem areas you look back and go, "That's so simple, why didn't I think of that sooner?" Chris, Matt and I all write, and about halfway through the album process we were each making noises about ideas we had that we thought were cool but didn't have time to see through. So we agreed to part ways for a month, and each individually demo any ideas we were vibing on. When we came back together we seriously had enough good material for a double album, and about half of what's on ‘Catacombs’ comes from that period. As much as it's good to go “hell for leather” when you’re in the studio, for us it's also important to take some time, get some perspective, and let ideas breathe and grow.
How did the music video for 'The Devil Inside' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind that track in particular? I was sent demo reels of about 20 different directors from our label. I was looking for someone who had an artistic eye who would enhance the feeling that track evokes. To me a great music video re-interprets the song in a new way that makes it feel even bigger. Brian Cox did that. I never would've thought to use such vibrant colours like that for such a dark song, but it totally works. That song asks the question, "Do the negative thoughts and urges I have make me who I am?"
Hard question time. What band would you say you've learnt the most from by touring/performing with, and why? I've learned a lot from a few different bands we've played with: From Alter Bridge we learned to hone your craft, to grow and keep pushing yourself musically. From Gojira we learned that you can be the nicest most, "down to earth" guys in person, but still make the heaviest, vibiest and most artistic music out there. I don't know what we were expecting, but we were blown away by how super cool and friendly those guys were. From the late, great Vinnie Paul we learned that we must pay forward the kind of graciousness and hospitality he showed us. Vinnie took us on tour, used to come to all our shows in Vegas, and invited us over for BBQs when we were in Vegas making ‘Catacombs’. Which was so cool of him, because we didn't really know anyone there. His legacy lives on in our band as inspiration to not just aspire to be great musicians, but also great people.
Looking back on 'Awaken the Fire', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Like a Storm? That album put us on the map really. It opened the doors to playing all over the world. We would show up in countries like Poland were we'd never played before and people were singing along. It allowed us to meet and play with living legends like Slash and Ozzy. I'm still really happy with it and love playing those songs live, but my goal with making music is to always feel like your latest work is a progression from your last.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Awaken The Fire' at the moment, and why? I'm really enjoying playing ‘Wish You Hell’ - we start it live with Chris playing this really cool break-down intro on the slide guitar that's not on the album recording. When we were on tour with Alter Bridge both Mark and Myles each told him how much they loved that part of the set and his note choices - which I'd have to imagine is about as big a kudos as one can get about your guitar work!
How did the trademark didgeridoo come into your sound, and what does it bring to Like a Storm? Chris learned to play the didge when we were on vacation in Australia once. When we were starting out and gigging around clubs in Auckland we used it as the intro to our set, because it was a different sound. Then when we were making our first album, we figured we should also start the album like that. But I think using it in ‘Love The Way You Hate Me’ for the drum solo part is really how it become our trademark sound. That song took off and we became known as the "Didgeridoo Band." But it wasn't like a premeditated thing, it just kind of happened. We love what it brings to our sound - in a breakdown it can be really hypnotic. And when intertwined with a guitar riff it can create a whole new groove. One of our favourite things to do is come up with a heavy, rhythmic riff, and then play around with the didge doing percussive syncopation over the top. It creates this cool, polyrhythmic interplay between the two that isn't often heard in rock or metal.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We're super stoked for this run. UK shows are always off the hook, and the crowds on the tour with Godsmack will be no exception. They can expect a high energy show from us - we've been away for over a year making ‘Catacombs’ - so we're ready to get out there and hit it hard.
What else can we expect to see from Like A Storm in 2018? Heaps of touring all over the world, we're going to some new places we've never been before like Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria... We've got a music video for ‘Pure Evil’ coming out soon, and we'll shoot a couple more. Basically we spent almost two years making this new album and now it's time to hit the road and spread the good word.
Interview with Liam
You recently did a handful of intimate tour dates. How did they go, and what has it been like to perform some of the new songs live in that setting? Those were sick. It was actually wild playing new songs on those, because the record had literally only been out for two weeks at that point, and people were singing along to so many songs. It felt like we had done it. It worked! They were awesome, and the vibe was rad. We threw it out there to do something fun, so to then have all of those sell out in thirty minutes was crazy. It was not what we were expecting. To rock up and have people sing along was great. I was like “Oh, this is way crazier than we thought!” in a really good way, like “People still like our band!”
We must ask, why did you want 'The Spark That Moves' to be a surprise release? Just to kind of do it. It wasn’t as calculated as people give us credit for. It was just like, we are doing this album ourselves, let’s just go for it. I felt like after touring a year of Bat Sabbath people were waiting for new Cancer Bats music. It came from hanging out with all of those real Cancer Bats fans, who were all really stoked with what we were doing. So we just thought “Yeah let’s put it out with no lead up.” All of those ten year ‘Halo Destroyer’ shows were sold out, and we had like a month of that. If those shows weren’t sold out, I’d be sweating it really hard! I’d be singing a different tune, but right now the Cancer Bats world is sick!
Was it cool to get such an instant reaction? Yeah, and it’s awesome to of been doing this for the last 13 years, and to kind of feel like all of the hard work we’ve put into it has paid off. Just to have that all come through and be like “We can do this record ourselves, and not do all this pre-order stuff, and people will get into it and still be really pumped.”
How did you get to the album title 'The Spark That Moves', and what does it mean to you? For me it was from being in that space of self-reflection, so looking at why we are still wanting to be this band when we are in our late 30s. What that still means to us in not trying to do this record because it’s our job. This band shouldn’t be a job to anyone, like “We do this to make money” because that’s not why you play in a band, and it isn’t why you should be on tour. For us, we were looking at those ideas, “Why are we doing this?” “What are we pushing ourselves to do?” because otherwise we could just bang out a record in a week, and be like who cares. So we said “No” if we are going to hold ourselves to a standard, then what is that standard, what are we pushing towards. I love listening to music before I go dirt biking, like what is it in that, where I get the energy from it. Why does a kid listen to music, or listen to Cancer Bats before they go skating or work out. What is it in these things that drives us. So it was a lot of those conversations and those ideas. It was good, and I felt like it came to a positive head. “This is why we write music, and these are the songs that we want to write!”
How were those ten year anniversary shows for ‘Hail Destroyer’? They were sick! It was actually really nice to go back and realise that we hadn’t blown it. To re-examine those songs and be like “Wo, these songs are fun, this is really wicked” I can understand why people got into this album, because it’s great. It’s really fun going back to play all of those songs again. We hadn’t played ‘Let It Pour’ in so long, and I was like “Man, this song is awesome!” I had forgotten how much fun it was, and how much those lyrics mean to me. It was rad to instantly have that feeling with ‘Smiling Politely’, ‘Regret’, ‘Let It Pour’, I was like “Oh man, I totally remember what I was feeling ten years ago” It was a nice nostalgia for myself. I hope fans have that as well, where they listen to that album and then say “Wo, remember when I was in high school, jamming that record!?” I hope a lot of that happened, because for me I was in that vibe.
What has it been like to watch your fan base in the UK grow so gradually? Yeah, it’s really rad. The whole idea that we were nervous to headline the Underworld when we put out ‘Hail Destroyer’, and now we’ve come back and sold out four nights there, it’s the best feeling ever. Like I said, the Cancer Bats world is sick right now. Everyone is being super rad, and all of the shows are awesome. We’re just hanging out with our fans that have been there for the last 10-13 years. It’s such a good vibe.
It must be cool to be at this point where you are both looking forward and backwards in a rewarding way? It’s a cool perfect storm that we are in right now. Everyone is having fun and hanging out. Life rules.
How did the animated video for 'Gatekeeper' come together, and what was it like to work with Stevie Gee? Basically, I DM’d him over Instagram because I was a fan of his art, and I said “Yo, dude your art is sick. You seem like you have a good sense of humour. We should hang out!” This is when we were touring ‘Searching For Zero’ I asked him to come to a show. I didn’t know where he lived, but he said that he lived in London, and that his brother and him will come to the show, as his brother is a huge fan of our band. Then I met him, and we became instant homies. We hang out now all of the time. So when we were over doing Bat Sabbath, I was like “Dude, we’ve got to hang out” so we spent the whole night hanging out, and then after he was like “I want to work with you and your clothing brand, I want to do stuff for Treadwell Clothing and Cancer Bats, I’m down! Whatever you want to do, let’s figure it out!” He does like crazy illustration. He does Adidas and Nike stuff, and he is a crazy artist, so it was great to just have him say that he was down. So I sent him ‘Gatekeeper’ and he was like “This song is sick, I have so many ideas!” and I said “Me too! I’m thinking let’s making it look like Heeman and Wacky Races!” he agreed. He had already drawn a witch and a vulture before he had seen the lyrics. We were on the same wave length, and we were vibing really hard. The video is the greatest thing we’ve ever done. I’m so proud to have my name attached to this super awesome piece of work.
Looking back on 'Searching for Zero', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Cancer Bats? It was a cool place in time for the band. It’s a really dark and gnarly record. We cathartically worked through a lot of stuff, and it was really good. It is commemorative of a lot of people in our lives. I really like this new record as well, with the contrast of the two. As this one is like a total party anthem compared to where that is. That record has some real dark bangers. ‘True Zero’ is still one of my favourite songs we’ve ever written. That riff!
How did the idea for Bat Sabbath come together, and what has it been like to tour that project as Cancer Bats? We got asked to do a cover set for Sonisphere a million years ago, as a second set on the day. We were like “Oh we’ll just do Black Sabbath, we all like that band!” It’s the band that we all agree on. The show went really well, and then people started booking us all over the world to play other shows. So seven years later we can now tour as Bat Sabbath. It’s the best. It’s cool because people know it’s a Cancer Bats cover band. It’s the four of us doing it, and I think that is what makes it neat, as people know it’s our take on those songs. I like that that has transcended. People aren’t turning up to see a tribute act, they know that it’s going to be Cancer Bats putting their spin on Black Sabbath songs. It makes it good.
What else can we expect to see from Cancer Bats in 2018? I guess just lots more touring. We are just getting things going for touring this record. We are going to be back over here for sure. More vibes, so stay tuned.
Interview with Dez
It looks like a lot of planning went into 'Outlaws 'til the End, Vol.1'. How happy are you to finally have it out? Oh man, I’m really looking forward to this, I was holding my breath. You always get someone who comes to you and says, “I don’t know if this is going to be the right thing to do” and I told people I was biting off something that had never really been done and that I was trying to do it right. Now what’s happening is all the interviews are coming in and media is coming out saying 10/10 and that this is the record of the summer. That finally someone is doing something new and different in metal. We’re hearing all sorts. It’s very humbling.
A bit of a two part question here, when did you realise that you wanted to make an outlaw country record and secondly, when did you decide that you would make it? For the last 7-10 years I’ve been about it, I’ve always heard these songs as heavy. I find myself having to explain this more to people in the UK or Europe but if you come to America and come to a heavy metal concert, backstage or a barbeque, tour bus etc, you’re going to hear Slayer into Johnny Cash into Pantera into Willie Nelson etc. No one bats an eye. You see the fans with the black metal patch and he’s got a Johnny Cash patch as well. When I knew that I wanted to do it, I was speaking to Thomas from Napalm Records and told him my idea, he said, “Well you know no one’s ever done it?” I told him “I know no one’s ever done it!” and he just said “Okay, we should do it!” and this was about two years ago.
How did you choose before making the album the songs that you would work on? You’re making an outlaws record, so you’ve got to choose the outlaws. These guys were the Lemmy’s of their genre, okay? They’re the Lemmy’s of the country genre. Cash, Waylon, Willie, Hank, we chose them. Then we chose songs to go around them and brought in outside choices that we thought would fill the outlaw aspect.
How did you go about putting them back together as DevilDriver? The main thing we needed was to keep the dynamic of the songs alive whilst being able to turn them into heavy metal tracks for DevilDriver. Which means they’ve got to have groove. So, you take ‘Whiskey River’ by Willie Nelson, it’s a black metal track with Randy from Lamb of God and Mark and myself. You have to go about it and say we need to transpose this into metal but we don’t want to do it identically. It definitely has to have our own vibe on it, which it did.
You mentioned Randy and Mark. So can you tell us a bit more about what the guests brought to this record? Well everybody brought 110% intensity to this. They all knew we weren’t doing it for radio, monetisation or anything like that. They knew this was just pure art and everybody brought that pure art aspect to it. Everyone from John Carter Cash to Wednesday 13 brought that artistic approach to it and everyone knew we were doing something special. Something that had never been done before and I think that in itself was very special.
Two other names that appear are Hank III and John Carter Cash. What was Hank like? Well Hank is an old, longtime family friend, I’ve known him almost 25 years and it was wonderful to work with him. I didn’t really want to do it without Hank, as he understood exactly what we were doing. He was essential to this project so I’m very glad he came on board.
Also, John Carter Cash, son of the legendary Johnny Cash, how did that happen? We got in touch with each other. I had a friend of mine reach out to him and he thought it was a magnificent idea. My wife (who was manager of the project) and I flew out to Nashville to go to the Cash Cabin to meet with John Carter and his wife Anna. It was a meeting of the minds. The first hour he wanted to tell me about his love of heavy metal and how it saved his life when he was a teenager, he showed me a picture of Johnny Cash taking him to go see Ozzy. I wanted to tell him about my love of outlaw country and how poignant the lyrics are, the story telling and all of that. Now we’ve become really good friends, in fact I think the Cash family and the Fafara family are going to be doing some things in the future.
Were there any songs that were harder than others to make DevilDriver? I wouldn’t say harder, there were songs that needed different aspects like when we tried to do ‘Whiskey River’ in a heavy or groovy way, it was turning out cheesy so they put the squew on it. They know I love black metal, real black metal so they put that black metal spin on the tune and that’s when Mark and Randy came in and now, well I heard it on the radio about 10 minutes ago and it sounds immense. So that song, we had to really take a look at it, we didn’t want to say “Hey that’s a good cover, lets just do it!” We looked at it like, “Well that’s a good cover but is it done to its perfection? Has it changed enough, and have we gone far enough over the cliff with it?” That’s the important thing, taking it over the cliff, don’t stand on the precipice going “Okay cool, it’s done!” You’ve got to take it over the cliff, and with all of these songs we definitely did.
Obviously you have an appreciation of these songs in the first place but has picking them apart and rebuilding them given them an extra appreciation? For me, it was just the fact that after I laid the tracks, I went back and listened to them being like “There you go, that’s what I’ve always been hearing!” You’ve just got to get in there and make them your own. But you can’t do them cheesy. A lot of the covers that bands do that I’ve heard along the way, some of them are really cheesy.
It must be a fine balance to keep songs from getting that way? It is a fine balance, but it sticks out like a sore thumb when it’s not right, other bands will probably say this. When you do a cover that’s good, you know it. Also, when you do a cover that’s half assed or bad, you just know. It stands out, it really does, and we didn’t want any of those on this record. It took us nearly two years to get it done, the logistics, the insanity, it almost never got completed. The money ran out half way through, this thing was a total labour of love by everyone, by the guests, by the band, by myself.
Is there a hope that, not so much in America but in the UK and Europe, once people have heard this album that it might find them exploring the outlaw country genre? Am I hoping that heavy metal purists are going to become fans of country, no, I’m not delusional but what I am thinking is that the heavy metal purist, the person who listens only to say, Emperor will hear some of this stuff and think those lyrics are incredible, or those stories are crazy! Or be surprised that it’s a Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson song. They may not go out and check out these artists but they’ll give them a little more credit, and that’s what it’s about right? Much like Lemmy said when they asked what kind of music he liked, he said “I like good music.” The reason you see a lot of guys with the vests and the back patches with metal patches then a Johnny Cash patch is because that guy was the real, real deal. So, these outlaws are the real deal as much as heavy metal is the real deal.
This album is out, fans will perhaps be looking toward another original DevilDriver album, is there a timeline for a new one just yet? We are in the studio now, we’re done tracking 24 songs on drums, and we’re done tracking three songs on guitars. we’ll be in there over the next two months and then I track vocals in January/February. It will be the first double album I‘ve ever done and my first concept record, so get ready for that. What I am trying to do is put a record out every 18 months from here on out. ·
Like it was back in the old days! Well that, here’s the problem, here’s what’s happening here in America. If you’re not on the radio, you’re not going to make it so there’s a lot of metal bands selling their souls to write songs with five other writers and doing deals to get on the radio and they’re selling their art short. We don’t want to do that, we want to keep it heavy and that’s what’s happening, I’m going to keep my nose to the grindstone.
Following your Instagram and other social media, you’re a man who very much believes in positivity and the spiritual side along with freemasonry for example, how much have these aspects helped you over the years? There’s a couple of things that have helped me stay sane in this business. One, I’m extremely private, maybe more private then anyone in this industry. Two, my family and my wife come before everything. This thing we’re in, the business we’re in, music comes first for many, it doesn’t with me. Freemasonry teaches me to be on a level in business and everything I do. You’re a mason, you have an obligation to be on the level with the things that you do. Freemasonry teaches you that everyone is equal, George Washington was made a Freemason by his gardener. We’re all equal. The world needs more of that right now. All of those things. Music has kept me sane, I love music, I love travelling, I love playing live. I do like meeting people even though I’m very private and it gets to me sometimes but those are the things that have kind of kept me who I am.
You’ve touched on the business side, you’ve been in it for a lot of years now. How much has the music business changed from the early/mid-90s to today? It’s completely changed, to go into this conversation would take an hour, however, when people say downloading has hurt the business, they’re wrong. The business now (and the labels are not telling the artists this) is back to where it was in 1992. Where you had vinyl, you had tape and you had CDs, combine that with Spotify etc and you’ll see that the music industry is actually flush with cash again. Everyone is watching their cheques getting bigger, every producer, everybody. So, we just have to watch where it goes in the future. What I’m seeing, specifically with watching heavy metal is that heavy metal artists are doing this big clean vocal thing on the choruses to get themselves on the radio to save their career. That’s what’s happening in America, a lot of the metal bands WE are worshipping, are not. There are big active rock radio bands that have 10 writers for their tunes, I don’t play games with that stuff. I tell it like it is. So there’s a lot of that going on and it’s a shame because what’s really happening is the art is getting sold short. There’s real heavy metal and then there’s heavy metal that’s drawing 5,6,7 thousand people a night and it’s not metal. It’s rubbish active rock. I don’t like to see that. Pantera used to draw ten thousand people a night, why? Because they had great music in their own style, they weren’t selling themselves short for the radio.
A last question and one I’d rather not be asking but we lost Vinnie Paul recently, what are your memories of him and the legacy he leaves behind? He made my career man, it wasn’t Phillip and it wasn’t Dime who put me on those Pantera tours, it was Vinnie. Vinnie put me on that Pantera/Black Sabbath tour that went to soccer stadiums all around the world, it was Vinnie that had Coal Chamber on his jukebox in his house. I wouldn’t have anything if it wasn’t for him. ·
Interview with Buddy, JR, Vinnie
As you’re at Download, then we must ask what's the most diverse festival you've ever played, and how was that whole experience for you guys? JR: Well this is kind of up there with diverse line-ups. It’s mostly metal bands here. There’s another festival in Belgium called the Graspop Metal meeting which we are also playing this month. We’re kind of the adopted step son of somebody that is on the festival. I don’t know how we got here, but we are just happy to be here. It’s mind boggling!
Vinnie: You know what, it’s weird. I remember one Reading Festival, it was Taking Back Sunday, Slayer, Killswitch Engage, Less Than Jake, My Chemical Romance and Pearl Jam. That is a diverse line-up my friend! This might be a diverse line-up but it is a metal festival. That particular Reading festival line-up was wild.
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? Vinnie: We just got off tour with a band called Face to Face in the United States. They were a good time, Trevor and our singer Chris used to thumb wrestle every day before we went on stage, whoever won the thumb wrestling contest got to choose when we play, because it was a flip flopping thing. Chris lost every day, as Trevor is a master at thumb wrestling.
Buddy: It also decided who got to get each other’s back in the shower first. Chris was always the “loser”.
JR: So now we are over here for a while, we’ll go back to the states. Vans Warped Tour for a little bit, and then we’ll come back here in October and November with Reel Big Fish.
Buddy: We have to beat our record in Birmingham of selling the most booze at the 02 venue! We set the record, and now we have to beat our own record. So get your drinking shoes on Birmingham! Don’t actually drink out of your own shoes though!
What’s it been like to organically, and gradually build a fan base in the UK? Vinnie: It’s like a firm and yet subtle massage on your back. JR: It’s pretty good. We toured like a UK band when we first toured here. We played everywhere. We’d be like “We’re playing Derby!”, and people would say “What, nobody plays there!” We really enjoy fish and chips, any items in a pie. We’ve been coming here so long that we’ve seen the culinary explosion in this country! Seriously, it used to be really bad, and now it’s really great!
Buddy: That’s how we did it in the States, we had already been a band for about 6-7 years before we came over here. We drove around and played every little place in America. In England, by playing everywhere you’d get people thanking us as sometimes they didn’t have to travel so far to get to our gigs. Like you said, this built up an organic fan base. As some bands will play London and Manchester and then just leave. We figured that it would work if we came over here and really put the time into it. Also yeah, you guys used to be a beer culture actually, but now you’ve followed in the footsteps of America’s craft beer tradition!
So, 'Anthem' has just turned 15 years old! Looking back on this album, what do you remember the most about putting it together? Buddy: Rob Cavallo! Every time we ordered food he’d order two meals at least, if not three. He didn’t know if he was going to like it, so he ordered extra! That’s when you know you have a major label budget, you can do things like that!
JR: I liked having the voodoo priestess come out to bless the session! Buddy: Yeah, because we started in New Orleans before we went to Malibu to finish the record. It was our last major label record, and we’ve learned that if you don’t just take it all up front, then you don’t get to see any money anyway. So instead of the way we did it on ‘Losing Streak’ where we tried to conserve every penny, this time we were like “We have to spend all of the money that they can give us!” and so we did. We had a budget for the grocery store down the street, so we went there for lunch every day.
Vinnie: I don’t remember anything about the session, but I hear it was great. The pictures look great, and they say a thousand words!
Buddy: The mansion we recorded it in Malibu was next to Cher’s house if that says anything! ‘Anthem’ has to be one of the albums that paved the way to huge success, especially in the UK. However, for you guys. Why do you think it became such a standout record? JR: The lyrics were really strong on that record, and I think that that is ultimately what people connect to. It just depends on where you are in your life. A lot of people heard that record when they were in their teens, early twenties. We created it when we were in our mid to late twenties.
Buddy: We also had a lot of time writing that record. We wrote it pretty organically, we played it all out in our warehouse. We actually had two full records, as we did the B-sides in the same session. So we did around 30 songs before we went into that. We had a lot of material to start with. So we really got to pick and choose the best tracks for it.
JR: Looking back what really stands out are the lyrics, and what we’re saying. Vinnie: You know what, to add to what JR is saying. There’s a certain moment with Less Than Jake where there’s the fun and sort of bouncyness of the music and the live show. But then at the same time, what’s being sang in that bouncy very melodic thing is occasionally very dark. It hits those specific buttons with people where they can embrace those moments of what the lyric is saying, but also get lost in the fun of it. So I think that for ‘Anthem’ we dialled that thing in, where it was half fun and catchy, and half sort of dark, serious, and uprooting. It was a good half and half mixture. It was a fine mixture for that record.
What songs are you still enjoying playing live from 'Anthem' right now, and why? JR: ‘Science of Selling Yourself Short’, ‘Plastic Cup Politics’, ‘The Ghost of You and Me’. I want to start playing ‘Escape from the A-Bomb House’ more. They say that in your career you’re lucky if you can make one record that you can listen back to, and that’s definitely that record.
Buddy: We actually play a lot of that record still! ‘The Upwards War And The Down Turned Cycle’ we play. We’ve probably played almost every song off that record at some point live.
Vinnie: ‘Motown Never Sounded So Good' I think we’ll dust off and bring back.
So, looking back on your latest release 'Sound the Alarm' how happy are you with it still, and what do you think it's done for Less Than Jake? JR: I think it’s a good representation of Less Than Jake in 2017. It highlights our strengths. Our songwriting at this point in our career continues to get better. I’m saying that with pretty much no ego. It’s just got better. I have friends of mine, who have been my friends for years. They’ve said that they don’t know how we’ve done it, and that we just keep writing better songs. I appreciate that. It sounds like what I envision our band is supposed to sound like in 2017/18! I’m pleased with it, and people seem to like it!
Buddy: What started with the TV/EP, and the two five song EPs that we did. Roger started to record and produce the music, so it’s just kind of the five of us in there. We don’t really have any outside influence. A lot of it was written and recorded organically. It’s just us doing it.
So as you're 25 years into your career, how do you go about putting together a setlist at this stage? JR: Chris does it! Buddy: I mean, it is a difficult thing now. When we first started out it would just be on a paper plate from the back room where we would just write all of the songs on that we knew as we only had ten songs! Now you have to go through every record and start picking things off. Eventually you have a 45 minute song set list, and it’s like “Damn, we’ve got to whittle some of these out!” Before each tour cycle we kind of get in there, and pick the songs that we are going to do for the next six months. We then alternate some songs as we tour. There are definitely songs that if we don’t play we get in trouble! People yell and scream at us, like “You didn’t play ‘Jonny Quest’” so we’re like “Oh, guess we’ve got to play that one again!” We have a new practise rule, where we never practise ‘Jonny Quest’ before the tour!
JR: Don’t give away all of the secrets man! Yeah, so there’s kind of like seven songs that are always in the set, and then we switch it up a bit.
You guys are taking on Warped Tour for the last time, how bittersweet is this for you, and what has it done for Less Than Jake over the years? JR: We’ve done so many Warped Tour shows that it’s become such an engrained part of our lives. It’s hard to wrap our heads around what it’s going to be like not going out every other summer on that. I’m just going to show up at Kevin Lyman’s house and put a tent in his back yard at the top of June, and be like “Dude, when are we going!” It’s sad but everything has an expiration date on it.
Buddy: It’s definitely been a way for us over the years to keep reaching the younger fans that listen to us, who got into our music from say their older cousin. They’ll come to the merch stand later and be like “My cousin used to listen to you and I never saw you, and I’m totally coming back now!” It’s a way to rejuvenate our band every other year. It’s been good for us in that respect. There’s no way anyone will be able to catch us up on the amount of times we’ve played it though. We’ve definitely played it more than any other band!
How excited are you for your upcoming tour with Reel Big Fish? Buddy: It’s going to be great! The combination is a patterned winner. They’re friends of ours so that always makes it easy, and our music works together really well. 1+1 = 3!
What else can we expect to see from Less Than Jake in 2018? JR: We are going to enjoy today, and then tomorrow we’ll see what happens. The rest of this year we’re busy. Buddy: Well, we’ve covered some of it. We are doing the Warped Tour, and in between those tours we have stuff that we are flying out to, like a festival in Chicago etc. Maybe we’ll dip into writing, maybe we won’t. That is as yet to be determined.
You've just hit the road to tour 'Avalon' so what has that been like for you so far? So far it’s been really fun. I have my friends with me that recorded the new record, and a bunch of new crew members that are awesome. We’re just getting started, but it feels really good.
Also, as you're touring with them. I wanted to ask you how Good Old War ended up becoming your backing band? Keith and Tim knew me since I was in high school, we were all in bands together growing up. We all continued to play music in a parallel way but never together for a long time. Right when I was doing a solo record ten years ago, and they were doing their band Good Old War I wanted to try include them in what I was doing. So they came to help me record, and they’ve been playing as my backing band ever since!
So going back to the start of your solo career, how did the idea for a solo record first come together? I had so many Circa Survive songs that I thought were cool. That the band either worked on that we weren’t feeling, or didn’t work out one way or another. I wanted to do something with them. There was a lot time where I felt almost kind of limited with Circa. Whenever Circa took time off, I just liked playing. It became a thing where obsession and opportunity met each other in a beautiful way.
Was it nerve-wracking at all at the time, to just be putting 'Avalon' together by yourself, without your usual band mates in Circa Survive being around you? In a lot of ways, it’s more settling. I can rest on my laurels. I know what I can and can not handle. I’m prepared and I know that it’s going to be good. I don’t have to worry about if everyone else is prepared. At the same time that’s also really nerve racking because you feel like everything rests on you. I’ve always included other people though, I’ve never really gone “solo.” There’s times where it’ll just be me playing acoustic guitar, and I love that, it’s special. However, I’ve always collaborated with people, always.
What did you enjoy the most about working with Joe Dellaquila, and how would you say he shaped the album? The guy that was going to help me record the album, sort of bailed on me, because he was having personal issues. Joe was his buddy who was just there to help out, and ended up doing everything with me! He engineered and co-produced a lot of the music. In ways of just bouncing ideas around, Joe was the guy who I could say “Hey, can we do this?” and he would just make it happen. I haven’t talked to that guy in a long time, but I’ll hit him up!
So for you, looking back on 'Avalon' itself what do you remember the most about putting it together? I remember being in the house that we recorded at, it’s the same house that my family would go vacation at all together in Avalon New Jersey. It’s owned by my wife’s family. I remember sitting in the main room where everyone eats and hangs out during vacation time with all the mics set up, as the sun was going down. Listening back to what we’d done all day, while everyone was getting lunch or dinner. Just feeling so excited, that I had music that I was going to get to release in a different way. It didn’t sound anything like Circa. I remember listening to it, and thinking “This is going to be so fun!”
When rehearsing for the 'Avalon' anniversary tour, were there any tracks that you found particularly rewarding to re-visit? If so, why? Well ‘Dear Child (I've Been Trying To Reach You)’ was the first time I sat down with someone who was such a prolific song writer. I got to write and record with the energy that John Feldmann had. When he took this song that I was just jamming on with the guitar in his back yard, he turned it into the biggest thing I’d ever heard that day. He gave me such an incredible confidence in myself, which no one has ever done before.
How did you get to the album title 'Would You Still Be In Love', and what does it mean to you? Well by re-visiting my older material, and planning the ten year tour. Doing all these ten year things for Circa. I started thinking about the life cycle of a band. The life cycle of a relationship. You start out loving something, and then sometimes by the end of it you’re like “Man, this is garbage!” There are a lot of bands where I love their first record, and then by the end I’m like “F*ck this band, they sold out!” or whatever. They lost their way. There have been a lot of relationships that I’ve been in where I think that they’re incredible, and I love them. Then by the end of it I never want to speak to them again, and no one can hurt me worse than them. Most of the songs on the record kind of thematically go around that would you still be in love after ten years of being with somebody, listening to the same album again, or having someone complain about the same relationship. Complain about hating themselves. It’s a question you can ask your partner. Like will they still be in love after having someone screaming in your face for ten years!
This record is “a look at how your mental illness has affected everything around you, but not just in a bad way.” so can you also elaborate on that, and maybe how it helped shape 'Would You Still Be In Love' overall? There was a moment during the writing process. Where I was going through with the reconciling of the fact that I’m lucky to go through with things, the deep highs and lows. That helps you process things in an artistic way. It happened while I was writing the first song on the record. It’s pretty remarkable that someone who has that type of instability, can find like a functional way to exist in society. Specially in this society, where everything has to be so mandated and everyone is trying to fit a certain mold. Somebody with mood swings, and mental illness doesn’t really fit into it.
We've read that there's a "newfound confidence" from you on this album, so where do you think that's come from, and how refreshing or important is that for you to have as an artist? It sort of comes from the relationships we have with people, maybe your fan base, or even yourself. You’re not looking to get anything out of it, other than that joy of playing. You’re going to be disappointed if you’re trying to get on the charts or something. If you really enjoy singing what you’re singing to people, then that in itself is really gratifying. So there’s a confidence knowing that that is something you can do.
On the track 'Love' there seems to be a lot of violins and piano in the background. So, can you tell us a bit about how that particular cover song came together? The original accompaniment is extremely dynamic. When I was originally recording it, I thought about doing it super bare bones. Then I kept hearing different vocal accompaniment in the vocals. We met the composer Summer Swee-Singh when Circa Survive was touring in Los Angeles who had done a map up on YouTube of a couple of our songs. We invited her to come play and she was really enthusiastic about music, and about writing. I sent her a couple of songs that I had been working on which were bare bones, I thought that it would be cool to see what she came up with. She literally just nailed it, like everything she did on it was perfectly timed out. I didn’t edit anything. She just took it, and put an incredible composition around it by herself. I got really lucky, so we just mixed it in there.
Also, how did the idea for covering this Disney track come together? I took my son to the doctor’s office. They had an old TV there which only played VHS, it was on this big high up stand. It was playing the old Robin Hood Disney movie, we were sitting there waiting and then that song came on. I got taken back to that time of being a little kid, because I remember the song and watching that movie. Sitting down, and just being so comforted by it. In the doctor’s office I googled the lyrics and it made me feel incredibly emotional. I knew I wanted to play and cover it. I didn’t think like “I’m going to put this on my album!” I thought I’ve got to figure out how to play this. Then the next day I met Brendan (Circa) who taught me how to play it, and I started covering it at shows. It ended up being something perfect for the record.
Album ender 'Real Magic' is a metaphor for where you're at in your life today. So can you tell us about maybe how rewarding this particular track was to put together, and why it works so well at the end? I didn’t write the lyrics for it. I just had this melody where I’d make up lyrics on the spot, it was just stuff that my kids could laugh at. I did that for three days with the song before I put serious lyrics to it. It was my kids that said it was a happy sounding song, that it was cool, and what my songs should sound like! They said that I should write more songs like that. I didn’t really have any serious lyrics for it. So I just started putting something down. In my mind it’s not really a complicated idea, it’s just the idea of something being like what real magic is, just noticing everything that’s around you. All of the little synchronicities. When a song on the radio comes on that you really like hearing. Or somebody that you were just thinking of called you, or something like that. It’s not anything super deep. It’s about learning from stuff that’s difficult, stuff to go through. Finding purpose in pain. It’s something that people go through all of the time, and it’s what eureka moments are built about. It’s what makes the world go around!
What was it like to work with Will Yip as a producer on this album once more, and what did he bring to the process? He is like my best buddy. I love working with him every time we work together. He has been doing a lot of big records for Circa. Just every record we do together sounds really big. I wanted to make something that captured the live raw feeling of what we do when we are playing. Just kind of stripped down. I wanted to be able to feel the live version of my voice much better. Which is something I feel hasn’t been around on the last couple of records. He really helped me do that.
Also, how did you originally end up on Will Yip’s Memory Music, and what has it been like to work with him when releasing your solo albums? Well I was going to release ‘Pixie Queen’, the record I did before this on my own. He was sort of setting me up with people that he does his label through. We decided to do it together through that way, through Memory, like I’ll run my little label through his little label. That way we’ll streamline everything. We are currently working on this project where two of the guys on this tour from Good Old War, Tim and Keith are in this band called Found Wild, who are opening the tour. We’re putting out an EP on Memory Music and my record label Moshtradamus. It’s a subsidiary of Memory. We work together to fund projects that primarily I’m working on. It just makes everything really easy. He’s the producer, he runs the studio. We can kind of curate how we want everything to look, feel, and sound. It gives us ultimate control to deliver what we want, when we decide to put it out in the world.
How did the interesting idea for the 'Vera Lynn' music video come together, and what was it like to work with Mike Gallagher? When I was doing the Good Old War music video for ‘That Feeling’ which was with Mike Gallagher. We spent the whole day just messing around with each other about funny ideas for a music video. That was just one of them! He assured me that it could be done. I just stayed on to him about it, and he stayed onto me about it, and cool things were made! He came over one day, and filmed my son running around doing cool stuff. I went to his house one day, wiggled and made noises in front of a green screen. Then he put it all together. I can see him doing more incredible work in the future. He is a great director and he has a great vision.
Also, if possible, can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind that track in particular? When I’m home, sometimes I’ll go and sit down and write. When I’m not touring or working on a specific project. I’ll write music and do poetry as my work or exercise. Compiling material to keep everything flowing. I had this thing in my head that I wanted to write about. I was just going through this manic phase of this bipolar meltdown. I was getting it all out creatively, which is cool. I was just trying to write something that sounded like this one song by Vera Lynn called ‘We’ll Meet Again’, something that had the same feeling. Not exactly like how she wrote it. It’s about the last time you’ll ever see somebody. I also listened to another song she wrote/sang called ‘A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square’ which is probably even more beautiful. It’s about the first time ever meeting somebody. I was just floored by how she had this prism of emotions, but it was the same thing. Like the same feeling happening in both of these songs, but they were both the complete ends of the spectrum. I became obsessed with it, and then the song just turned into a song about how nothing really matters, because everything is rubbish! You can’t try to do anything because you’ll fall in the middle. You’ll never be happy, and that’ll be somebody elses end spectrum, if you’re lucky.
What else can we expect from you over the next year? I’d like to do some more shows by myself next year. I just started writing some more solo songs by accident like a month ago. I’m working on some new Circa material, and The Sound of Animals Fighting, which is another project that I do. We are working on trying to do some new shows next year, and maybe some new music. There’s lots of stuff coming!
What made you want to release 'Sinner' first, and can you tell us a bit about how that track in particular came together? From the word go, that was the song that felt quite immediate to us all. It sat really well, as our first sort of flavour that people could get from the record. It just seemed like the obvious choice to us all when we were making the record. It came together from a weird little demo that James had done. It sounded pretty good, and it had the bare bones of it. Then he went up to Sheffield to start working with our producer. Then within a week that was what came back sounding almost like what it does now, just minus the choir bit at the end. It all happened really quickly to be honest.
We've read that this record was a challenge taken up by James to subvert the band's writing process! So can you elaborate on that idea, and how it's infleunced the new album? Yeah! It was just really different. It still happened in quite an organic way. We sort of had a time frame that we had in mind. Partly because of the fact that it has taken us so long to put records out in the past, we didn’t want that to be able to happen. We had a date that we hopefully wanted to be done by. Obviously if we didn’t have anything good enough done by then, then that wouldn’t be the case. However, luckily it did work out like that. Previously every single song has been written by James on an acoustic guitar, and that forms the basis of it. Whereas it was done slightly differently this time. We’d start writing because of a piano line that someone came up with, or a certain electronic sound that we had found. It was just slightly different. None of the songs were as fully formed in their inception as they have been before. Beforehand, obviously they sounded totally different. James had mapped them out acoustically with vocals, then you could see where the song was going to go. With this, it was much more of an on going creative process. It was pretty interesting to be honest.
Leading on from that, we've read that you've just thrown out the "rulebook" on this one, so how else do you think the creative process on this album differs to anything you've done before? More than anything else we’ve given ourselves a bit more creative freedom. We’re unafraid to try stuff. Before I don’t feel like we’d have felt comfortable to release some of the songs that we are going to be releasing. We would of felt like there was a pressure to sound a certain way. This time, if we found ourselves trying to make a song sound more like a rock song, we’d be like “Hang on, if this is how it’s sounding, why are we trying to compromise a bit, by making it sound differently to maybe what Interview with Max people are expecting it to be?”
It's pretty cool that the band just trusted James fully with this one, however, what was that like for you personally? Yeah, it was different. He was up there for a couple of months. After a little while, myself and the keyboard player Max went up and started writing on the final few tracks on the record. It just sort of all came together quickly. We never intended to write a record when he first went up to Sheffield, he just intended on doing demos. However, it ended up sounding so good, and the creative head space in there resulted in the songs just churning out. It was good.
So how did James end up working with Phil at Steel City Studios? We’ve known Phil for years. He used to be Bring Me The Horizon’s front of house engineer for a long time. He’s been a really good friend of ours. We started working with him again a couple of years back. He said “Look, I’ve got a studio if you want to come up and do some demos that sound a bit better, come up here and start working them out.” It just started to snowball from there.
What do you think Phil brought to the process? He is very relaxed, which is good. It makes you more comfortable when it comes to doing things differently. He also understands songwriting really well, but in a slightly different way to James. So I think they really compliment one another. He’s been a great creative influence on the record.
How did you end up working with the London Contemporary Voices choir, and can you tell us a bit about what they were like to work with? Those guys are great! I don’t know who it was who put us in touch with them. We always like doing shows with extra musicians. Earlier on this year in February we did a show for War Child at the Union Chapel in London. We wanted to do it with a string quartet and a choir. Those guys are absolutely unbelievable. It’s always pretty funny as a musician in a band, to go and work with actual musicians. It makes you realise how inadequate you are to people who just walk in and breeze through something. You’re like “Hang on! That took me hours to do.” They are amazing, and it was a pleasure to have them on quite a few tracks on this record.
Looking at the album, if possible, what was the most challenging song for you to be a part of, and why? One of the most challenging ones on the record, from a writing perspective would be ‘Heaven’. We had the basis of it for a long time, but we could just never get it right. I think we were going to bin it, because we tried so hard to get it right but nothing would ever really come off. One day we were all disastrously hung over, because it was James’ birthday the night before. We only had a week left if we wanted to finish a couple of songs. We were all panicking, thinking “What the hell are we going to do!” Myself and Lee just went off for an hour to work on the track, and then we came back. So yeah, that was a song in particular that we really tried to get right. It took a lot of work!
A recurring theme on the album is one of struggle and redemption, so if possible, can you tell us a bit about that, and maybe what we can expect from the lyrical approach with this album? The lyrical approach is actually very dark. Which is quite a surprise to some people. As it is quite a lighter pop sound for the most part. James always writes from a dark place, but it’s always honest. That’s very important to us. It’s sort of like that!
James is obviously happily married and feeling secure in his place in the world for the first time in his life, so how has this really positive time helped what you do as Deaf Havana? Maybe it’s made him a bit more comfortable to try anything and be unafraid. However, a lot of it is taken from his past, and things that he has done a while back.
Do you think you’ll record at this speed again in the future? I’m not sure really. It does feel really exciting knowing that something from its inception point to when it will come out is so short. Especially considering when it’s taken us three years to do a record before. So yeah, that side of things of getting everything to come together quickly, and having things snowball, is something that I’d really love to carry on, and keep happening. Although, as a way of songwriting, when you’re like “Oh, we need to do something by then” that is quite stressful. I’m not sure how much I enjoy that.
How did the artwork for 'Rituals' come together, and what was it like to work with Wolf James? I think someone at our label found Debbie at Wolf James. We just fell in love immediately with how striking a lot of her photography is. She had one collection in particular that was very strange and surreal. We just reached out to her, and she gave us permission to use this one collection, and subsequently we did a couple of shoots with her. It was just amazing. She’s very different to any other photographer we’ve ever worked with. Which is nice, because doing photo shoots can be a bit of a boring one. It was awesome. It’s exciting to work with various different people creatively to work towards one thing, which is obviously the finished package of the record.
How did you end up signing to So Recordings, and what have they been like to work with so far? The guys at So are amazing. They’re an indie label so the freedom we’ve got there is fantastic. They’ve got relatively decent funding as well which helps. They’re the best record label we’ve worked with by far. Having previously being on major record labels, unless you’re a really big name band then you do get lost a bit in the system. Things can sort of meander on by, as no one really has an invested interest. Whereas at So the guys really care. They put everything into it. It’s just totally different, and it’s the way I like to be working.
So looking back on 'All These Countless Nights', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Deaf Havana? I’m still incredibly happy with it, and immensely proud of it. It’s done wonderful things for us. It’s the record we needed to release at that time. It had been so long since we’d done anything. It came from a lot of tension. It’s cathartic in the end. I’m incredibly proud of that album, and I think we all are.
It even charted in the top 5 here in the UK right? We were never expecting that. We didn’t even know if anyone would buy it. I think it had been three/four years since our last record. We didn’t really know what to expect. So the fact that it went straight to people’s hearts as much as it did was pretty humbling.
So would you say it was a turning point for the band then? It definitely reaffirmed to us that this is what we wanted and should be doing!
How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Reading/Leeds festival, and what can attending fans expect? We are unbelievably excited for that. We always have a great reaction every time we play Reading & Leeds. The slot we’ve got is pretty ridiculous. There will probably be a bit of nerves! The record will be out by then. So there will be a nice mixture of new tracks, and a couple of surprises. I can’t wait! I keep thinking that it’s really far away, but it’s not!
What festival performances have really stood out to you the most over the years, and why? Reading a couple of years back was a really big one for us. Also, the fact that we got to play Glastonbury last year was pretty mental, to be completely honest!
You've also announced a huge headline show in Brixton for the end of the year! So, what can we expect from that? Doing a Brixton headliner is something we’ve wanted to do for a while, and it’s something that we’ve been working towards. It’s going to be quite a celebration of us up until this point. It should be a special evening. I can’t even process that it’s happening yet. It’s a jump from everything we’ve done so far, and it’s really exciting.
What else can we expect to see from Deaf Havana in 2018? The rest of the record! A handful of festival performances. Excitement! We are weirdly very excited about this record. We’ll see!
Interview with Dustin & Teppei
Looking back on 'To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere', how happy have you been with the reception to the album, and what do you think it’s done for representation of the band? Dustin: We are super happy with how it was received. Out of the gate it was probably the best response we’ve had to a record. I think part of that was people being excited that we were back from a hiatus. It’s been great, and I think taking the break for whatever reason has seemed to open it up for new people to hear us when we came back. A fair amount of new people got into that record. ‘Black Honey’ did really well on the radio, so new people were hearing it that way.
The vinyl re-release for ‘The Alchemy Index’ is pretty impressive. So what was it like to put it together, and re-release it to your fan base? Dustin: Yeah, we were excited to do it again. It was a really cool piece originally, and there were only so many out there, which were selling for multiple of 100s of dollars online. That is always a shame, because you want people to have it. We re-released it, and it looks way cooler than the original. The vinyl is better, the packaging is better. We had a whole mishap where the UK store sold it early, and there was only a limited amount, so it sold out here on that store before people knew it was opening, so people got super bummed out about it. We opened it up for a weekend, for anyone who wanted to buy one so we repressed it again. So that was kind of cool, as everyone who wanted to get one, could get one! We are super proud of that whole record, and it’s cool to give it some new life.
You recently celebrated the album by performing some of the songs on the road. So for you, were there any tracks that you found particularly rewarding to re-visit from that era? Dustin: We only played four at the time, as we were doing a co-headline tour so the set wasn’t that long anyway. We did ‘Open Water’ and that was fun! That’s a weird one where Ed plays guitar on it too, and there’s a synth track going. That record is all over the place, so we had to figure out how to do it all live. The water ones are cool, as they’re the hardest to figure out. We lost all of our old files from records, because they were on some physical hard drives. So yeah, those were kind of a pain, but they ended up sounding really cool.
Teppei: Yeah, I really had to dig into the actual ‘Alchemy Index’ sessions to find the files/samples for those songs! It was fun.
'The Alchemy Index' seemed like a tricky one to work on with your label at the time. Can you tell us a bit about that and how important it is to ensure that you guys just write the way you want? Dustin: Yeah, so basically we were on Island at that time. Most of the staff that had been there when they brought us on were gone. So we just had very different visions for what the band was. The original people were like “Yeah, we get it, you’re a career rock band, you’re down for the long haul, it’s cool!” then they were like “Where’s the new single!?” They let us make it because they thought with 20+ songs there’s got to be a single there somewhere! However, it was not that kind of record. We got to keep it, and they got to keep half the money they owed us. Everyone was happy. We then put it out with Vagrant, who were stoked to put it out before they even heard it. Which was cool. I think it’s one of our fan bases favourite records that we’ve done, which is cool. It is defintely one of ours. As far as putting out something new and original, we are always just trying to make ourselves happy, which is hard to figure out what that is going to be too, as we’ve done so many different things, and we’ve gone in so many different directions. It’s hard to set a course for where you’re going with a record. It’s not just like “OK, let’s just make that record again!” which would be a lot more simple. We brainstorm, try to figure out where it’s going, and then as we start it kind of takes on a life of its own.
Do you think that by working this way it’s created a longevity to the band? Dustin: There are definitely people that itch and moan that we haven’t made ‘The Artist in the Ambulance’ 2 or 3. It surprises me that those people are still around enough to comment on things waiting for that, and we’re like “What! Why are you still waiting for that? It’s not going to happen!” However, for the most part, for every one of them, there are like 80 people saying “Dude they’ve been progressing, and they have been doing what they want to do, and that’s great!” We are super happy that there’s such a loyal fan base that trusts us to make good music, and to not expect us to make the same thing twice.
What memories do you have from being a part of Download Festival in the past? Teppei: Yeah, I do remember from that Download 2003, Metallica played a secret set. They played on the stage that we played, and they hadn’t played in a while. I got to watch them from the stage and that was a really cool experience for me, as I grew up listening to Metallica. That’s a highlight that comes to mind! Just getting to watch bands that you’re psyched on is always fun. Other than that, they’re usually kind of muddy and wet here. Today is great though, it’s nice surprise!
How did you end up signing to Epitaph, and what are those guys like to work with? Dustin: Our contract was up at Vagrant, and they’ve been great. We’ve been there for ten years. It’s been a great home for us, and they did an awesome job on the last record as well. We were just like “Well, let’s see what’s out there, since we are free agents” We very seriously considered staying, but it seemed like it was maybe time for a change. We really like the vibe over there, and there are some great people. Especially with Brett Gurewitz coming from playing in bands. He genuinely wants to take care of the bands and cares about their music. Yeah, so we’re really happy.
So let's talk about your new track 'The Grey', how did it come together, and if possible can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind it? Dustin: So we’ve been writing and recording since the end of last year, and we will have the new record ‘Palms’ out in the fall. That’s the first taste of that. Teppei wrote that riff that it starts with, and I knew it was going to go somewhere cool, but we couldn’t figure out where that was for a while. It was two different parts that I wrote for the chorus, one part ended up being the pre-chorus, and the other the chorus. It was all finally like “It’s a song, it’s all starting to make sense together!”
Teppei: I think once it came together it was a maybe contender for a single kind of thing. When we were first writing it there was not a chance in the world that I thought it would of been a single. It’s just how it works out!
What did you take from the creative process of ‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere’ that you’ve maybe applied to your upcoming material? Dustin: We had to figure out some ways of progressing the writing for when everyone wasn’t in the same room together. Teppei was up in Washington for part of that, and now on this record Ed has been in the San Francisco area. So we utilise a lot of the same tools. Basically we use this thing called the Sonocent which is for businesses. However, we use it to keep track of all of the ideas, and to comment on them. Then we use logic to make demos, or work on each other’s demos, and pass those around. So we’d be jamming in the same room to get the vibe going, and get some stuff shifted and then we’d put a lot of it together in demos. So, say Ed would be down for a week we’d jam a bunch, we’d get things moving along and then go off and work on them individually.
On your instagram we've seen bass clarinet, maracas, cello! It's looking like ‘Palms’ will certainly be something special? Dustin: That was when we were actually tracking ‘Palms’. The tracking was weird on this one too, we ended up doing a hybrid thing where we tracked drums in one place, vocals in another, and had our producer from last time engineer those. Then we were tracking the guitar and bass on our own at a seperate studio. Then part of the time I’d be doing vocals while they’d be doing guitars down at a different studio. Just because we rushed to get it finished so that it would be out on time. It ended up working out OK, but it was a little stressful.
Teppei: The idea of that, starting with ‘The Alchemy Index’ which we recorded ourselves. We found that that gave us a lot of creative freedom, just to be able to try weird things, and stuff that in a weird way we’d be hesitant to try if we had another person in the room, or paying for somone’s time/studio time. You’d be like “I don’t want to mess around and try and do that.” We wanted that creative freedom again, so we decided to do all of the instrumentation ourselves this time. It ended up affording us the time, the space and the mental clarity to be able to do weirder things, which is kind of fun, different, and exciting.
What else can we expect to see from Thrice in 2018? Dustin: We’ve got our new album ‘Palms’ coming, we’re really excited about it. We probably won’t be back here in 2018, but probably early in the new year.
Teppei: After this we are going out to South America which is going to be great. Dustin: Yeah, we’ve never been! In the fall we’re going out with The Bronx in the US!
‘A Dying Machine’ is a concept album, what is the story you are telling with it? It takes place at the beginning of the next century, there’s been a new technology developed where you can create human organs. They created the human brain around the turn of the next century and made a being called a “Vessel.” You can create a vessel with any likeness or any personality traits you prefer and after a while these Vessels discover they can act on their own and it becomes a rebellion if you will.
To create a concept album, how in depth do you have to go in forming the story behind it before you can begin the process of recording? It had to be completely done, top to bottom before we hit the studio. So before we went into the studio we had demos recorded, lyrics written, arrangements done, everything was ready to go.
A concept album is a different beast to making a straight up album, how different is it creatively for you to do? The lyrics were much more important this time in forming the story we wanted to tell. A lot of times you can write a song and keep it ambiguous for a while and then form it into what ever you want it to be in the end. However, with this album I wanted to sit down, and use my imagination to figure out where the story would go, what the next chapter would look like, and try to create a song that focused on that.
If you take the songs as chapter points, did you know which songs would be telling what part of the story? Yeah, the song ‘A Dying Machine’ tells a big part of the story, it’s the over arching concept but then there’s a lot of songs on the record that speak from different points of view. There’s about four different character points of view throughout the record. When I sit down to write the song I’d say, okay I want this to happen in the story, and then I’d just write a song about it.
Going back to when you wrote ‘A Dying Machine’, what gave you the idea of the Vessels to form the story in your head? I was sitting writing a chord progression I’d just sang, and the lyrics to it naturally came out. That’s kind of how I write lyrics, I’ll just sing melodies and spit out whatever words come into my head. After that happened, I wrote part two of the verse section and it became a conversation between two people. To me it was a conversation between a man who was frightened by this being he had created, she was obsessed with him to a point where it could get violent, to the point where she just would not leave him alone. It was with that that I developed the story and developed the characters to a point where I called her a “Vessel.” In the song, the word Vessels is never used, but in the book it is.
You wrote the book with John Shirley, how was it to write a novel? Well I’m still doing it. The bulk of the writing is done, now I’m in the copy-editing phase and reading through the story for the umpteenth time to make sure there’s no spelling or grammar errors or wrong references. I’ve loved every minute of it, it’s been a bucket list thing of mine for around ten years now to get a book published and I’m so glad to get this done. It’s one of the most exciting creative moments of my career.
How difficult or easy is it to move from songwriting to book writing? To me there’s a big connection between the two, it feels the same almost. You’re trying to open up your imagination as much as you can. I partnered up with John Shirley and it’s almost like partnering up with a song writer, you throw things back and forth. I told John the story as many times as I could start to finish before he knew the story arc and then we’d kind of say “Here’s where it should start, here are the names of the people” and then we’d go back and forth to make scientific sense of it all, how to make it flow. Writing a song in a vacuum by yourself is kind of hard, you want to have some kind of input as well if an idea is emotive enough in someone else’s point of view. So yeah it’s kind of the same for writing a book.
There’s of course been some big concept albums over the years, however for you, how much of a fan of this style of writing were you before ‘A Dying Machine’? It wasn’t something I was too aware of. I knew of these records and I owned a few of them but it was never on my radar as something I wanted to do some day. It just kind of fell on my lap and when that happened I decided to chase it down.
You have the album and the book, do you feel there is further expansion with ‘A Dying Machine’? Well the skies the limit if it does well, I’m very happy with how the book has turned out. If someone grabs the book and wanted to turn it into a film or a TV series, then that’s pretty much the dream come true. I’d definitely love to see something like that as well.
Do you think that taking on writing a novel might give you new ways to approach songwriting? Not really, it probably has subliminally, it helps open your mind to new ways of doing things, it might not be something I could explain directly but I’m sure it’s going to have some kind of effect on how I move forward. I’ve had so much stuff to create this last few years with this record being a concept record and the book. I talked to Myles Kennedy about this all the time, when you’re in writing mode, your brain is just in that mode at all times, you walk down the street and you have ideas. It’s good to be that way because when you get into a drought, it’s harder to get back into it.
Each song has its own place on the album, but are there any you feel that stand out? Yeah, some songs are a little harder to tie into the story than others but I’d say ‘Bringer of War’. It is from one of the main characters point of view. He’s known as the Bringer of War in the book. ‘Traipse’ is a big section of the book, ‘The Day When Legions Burned’, 'As The Silence Becomes Me', there are a lot of songs that are taken directly from scenes and parts of the book. Some of the other ones fit into the storyline but they sound like any song that could be about anyone’s life.
You’re taking the album on the road, what can fans expect from the live show? We’ll probably come out and play four or five new songs right off the bat, then we’ll keep working these new songs in as we go. We’ve done four or five shows already for the new record and we’ve played three new songs. So we’ll keep on easing them in as we go.
You head off with Iron Maiden this summer, how did that come around? Well our agent is also Iron Maiden’s agent and he approached them and they gave him the green light! We were thrilled. The first concert I saw was Iron Maiden, so it all blew my mind.
What else is to come in 2018 for Tremonti? We’ll probably be touring, non-stop, this run goes till August 3rd then we come back and do about a month and a half in the States. Then we’ll follow that up by going back to Europe in the winter time. We’re putting together another US tour for January or February. After that, we’ll see where we go from there.
How did you get to the album title 'Composure', and what does it mean to you? The title track ‘Composure’ seemed to fit the most, there is a line in the song that says “I’m reclaiming my composure”. The band was in the position to be the best we could possibly be and to put out the best record that we’ve ever created. So it really relates to the album as a whole.
Your lyrics focus on "mental health, being accepted, and above all, learning to love yourself". So if possible, can you tell us a bit more about what we can expect from the lyrical side of 'Composure'? These are a lot of the themes of the lyrics, Dan and I both contributed. The song ‘Composure’ is a song that we wrote together, we’ve never done that before. There are themes of uncertainty and questioning; “Is this where I’m supposed to be?” It’s very relatable and we tried to make it as accessible as possible. We want the listener to define the song for themselves. For example, there’s a song on the album which I wrote about my mum, maybe someone will listen to it and relate it to another relationship they’re having in their life. We want everyone to take their own view on it.
We've read that for this record "the band found themselves working harder than ever on what they wanted to say" - can you elaborate on that, and how the creative process for this record compares to anything you've done before? We communicated more, it’s hard to say if we took more time. We were more on the same page. The last album ‘The Home Inside My Head’ didn’t fulfil what we really wanted to do, and after going back and listening to it, it doesn’t leave that lasting impression. With this album we wanted to create something as memorable as possible. We always had that in mind for every single song on ‘Composure’ like “Is this going to be a song that people will listen to and want to listen to again.”
Looking back on 'The Home Inside My Head', how happy are you with the album still, and what do you think it's done for your representation? It’s not as cohesive as we wanted it to be. We didn’t communicate enough about what we wanted to accomplish from the record. It was a big learning process, and I don’t think ‘Composure’ would have been possible without the short comings of ‘The Home inside My Head’!
What songs do you still enjoy performing live from 'The Home Inside My Head', and why? The song ‘Mess’ on the album went over really well and we all love that song. ‘Colder Quicker’ is another great song on the album that works well live. We’re playing Vans Warped tour and people like it. It’s just that there are some songs that we didn’t put in everything that we should of.
Are there any other older songs that you really enjoy playing live?
For Warped Tour we were playing a song called ‘Late Nights In My Car’ from one of our EPs called ‘Put Yourself Back Together’. ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ receives a great reaction and is fun to play.
How did you end up working with Mike Green, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Mike was a huge asset to the album. He was able to dig really deep and bring something out of us that we were unable to do on our own. He is great at melodies and overall song structures. He is a talented musician himself and has a great ear to make a song as memorable as possible. Which is exactly what we wanted to do.
Do you have a favourite track on ‘Composure’? As of now it would be ‘Unconditional Love’ which has just been released as a single. We pushed the boundaries and stepped outside of the box.
What was the most challenging song to put together on the album, and why? It would be ‘From The Outside’ as it is so different. When we wrote the song we asked ourselves “Is this okay, could this be a Real Friends Song?” It’s just so catchy.
How did the music video for 'From The Outside' come together, and what was it like to work with Caleb Mallery? It was an idea that Caleb came up with and sent over. It defines what the song is and we liked the bright colour schemes. It felt like a great opportunity for us to have a fresh start - aesthetically as well, compared to the vintage vibes previously. It presented the band in a new light.
Although it is in its final year, what has Warped Tour been like to be on this year? It feels great! We looked at this tour as a new start for the band, a new chapter with the new album with a different outlook on things. We’ve been putting in a million percent when it comes to the performance. Making those 30 minutes our number one concern for the day. We’ve been exceeding those expectations.
Is there any particular bands you have played with on this tour that you have become close friends with? We have a ton of friends who are on the tour – Mayday Parade, The Maine, Movement, Knuckle Puck, State Champs. It’s been awesome!
For us in the UK, can you tell us a bit about what that tour is actually like to be a part of? It’s very hot and sweaty! You are dealing with elements but the show still goes on. It was thunderstorming recently and they had to evacuate the venue for two hours, and the fans returned. It shows that these fans are committed to us and all these other bands. It shows the passion and the love for the music!
Here in the UK we have lot of love for Real Friends, will you be returning to the UK in the future? We’re hoping to return to the UK and Europe next year.
Do you have a favourite place to play in the UK? Both the Electric Ballroom and Underworld were really cool.
Going back to the album how did the front cover for 'Composure' come together, and what does it mean to you? We felt like it relates to a lot of songs on the album, the song ‘Stand Steady’ mentions a bird in a hurricane. It was illustrated which was something different for us, as in the past album artwork had been images.
Can you tell us about the recent release ‘Smiling On The Surface’ and the story behind it? It’s about being strong for everyone around you but in the process you are falling apart. You don’t have time to reflect on your own wellbeing. It’s very relatable as everyone deals with that at some point. Musically it’s a very dynamic song because there is so much to it – acoustic guitar, breakdown in the bridge – we were all super satisfied!
How would you sum up ‘Composure’? ‘Composure’ is everything we’ve ever come up short on. It’s what Real Friends was always supposed to be. This album defines the band more than ever.
What else can we expect to see from Real Friends in 2018? We’re hoping to do another US Tour. We will be hitting the road and getting this album out to as many people as possible!
Interview with Izzy
So before putting 'Vicious' together you've said that you didn't know where you were "professionally and personally", so can you tell us a bit about that time, and how it maybe went on to inspire 'Vicious'? So we started writing for this record about six months before we started in the studio, we were still on tour. I was writing every day and wrote a good batch of songs and narrowed it down to like 15 or 20 tracks. I didn’t like any of them, I thought they were good but they weren’t inspiring for me, it wasn’t exciting, and I didn’t feel like I was moving this whole thing forward. So long story short I threw all those songs away and we started from scratch in the studio. I ended up calling Nick (Raskulinecz). I went kind of down a rabbit hole in my mind because you work so hard to try to make it so that you can continue to do this every single day, so I was a little lost at what to do. I went from “Whoa I don’t really know what I’m doing” all the way to “Do I deserve to even be here?” because we are so lucky to have so much success. So I thought it was going to get easier as that goes on but it actually gets harder as you put so much in, it’s hard to know where to go next. So anyway we went in the studio with practically nothing and I turned to Nick our producer and I’m like “Dude I don’t know what to do” and he said “This is kind of my specialty, I did the same thing with Korn who didn’t know what to do either. Mastodon, Foo Fighters etc” and I’m like okay “Well what do you do then?” and he said “When was the last time the four of you were all in a room together, a very tiny room with just your amps cranked and just jamming for the sake of creativity? Just to make yourselves happy, stop thinking about making the fans happy, stop thinking about making the label happy or the radio, just lose yourself.” Then he turned to everybody and said “Alright, who’s got a riff or an idea? Let’s start there!” so every day we went into the studio we would start with whoever had the best idea and then start recording. All of these songs developed very organically with just the four of us playing whatever got us excited in the moment. So then all of these feelings that I was feeling, either self-doubt or battling to try and make everyone happy and trying to find my mojo again, were very much on the surface. It beceme a very therapeutic way for me to get through it in my own head. We were just trying to be our best selves and not trying to be anything that we weren’t. In the end I came out of the other side and honestly being able to tell myself “Alright, it’s still here dammit!” was great. We really ended up finding our mojo again through making the record.
'Uncomfortable' was actually one of the first songs written for the album! So what do you remember the most about putting that important track together? Kind of seeing the initial vision for the rest of 'Vicious'? ‘Uncomfortable’ was one of the first ones that got us really excited as an instrumental. Something that we’ve kind of developed over the last couple of years when we play live, is that we have sections in the set where it’s completely improv. It was done as an exercise to help us develop that musical language again, because when we are in front of a live audience and you decide to just jump into this improv section where you don’t really know how you’re going to get out of it, things can go horribly wrong but they could also be incredibly spontaneous and amazing. So by working on that with each other, that’s where we ended up starting in the studio. We were like “Alright let’s go with this riff and jam until we find something that makes us excited”, so with all of those twists and turns in that song we ended up writing by just jamming together and improving with each other. Speaking that musical language that we have with the four of us. We then recorded it instrumentally and I took it home and over the course of four or five days ended up writing ‘Uncomfortable’ to it. When I was writing about it I was like “Okay, something that was fresh in my head is this theme, I’m just sick and tired of trying to please everybody because it’s impossible to make everybody happy” and I started getting online with our fans on Twitter, we just had this conversation. In this day and age with the internet, you can put up a picture of you on your happiest day with a dog and in your favourite dress that you love wearing and being like “I love today”, something totally innocent like that. However, then you’re going to get 50% of these people commenting on that picture saying that they hate you for it. They’d be like “Oh well, I don’t really like that” It’s impossible to make everybody happy so you might as well be you. So through that conversation online we started talking about certain things that I have done in my past. Like I cut my hair really short two years ago and it made a lot of people uncomfortable because they were questioning their sexuality and then my sexuality. They just started saying “Did she go off the deep end? Because she cut her hair?” I just cut my hair! I mean come on guys seriously. So I started talking about it in that sense where yeah, it made a lot of people uncomfortable but I’m almost kind of proud of that because I did something that was completely for me. I ended up writing the song about that.
Also, can you tell us a bit more about how those rapid style verses came together? The rapid-fire verses I did are like “You know why I did it?”, it’s because I wanted to and because I’m going to and because damn them for thinking that I can’t! I ended up writing this song through this instrumental part and then became musically outside of my comfort zone, with rapid-fire lyrics in the verses that were actually very difficult to demo because I had to go over it like 12 times in my head to get the rhythm, and then write this chorus that isn’t necessarily traditionally me. I’m a big fan of the big anthemic choruses like ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’ and with this one, I’m singing a very un-singable word, “uncomfortable” which is not very pleasing to the ear. So it goes along with the guitar riff, it was like me taking everything that made me comfortable as a musician and throwing it out of the window and saying “Okay I’m going to write this song totally outside of myself” and so it was interesting because I showed it to the guys and they were like “We love it, it’s amazing” and I’m like “Dammit, now I have to do it every single day!” I’m going to have to figure out how to perform this thing. So yeah that was just a really fun song to do.
You've said that this record is about "overcoming inner demons" so can you tell us about that, and how you maybe want what you went through to positively inspire? Oh, absolutely. I have that whole, self-doubt in myself, people’s criticisms or opinions of me. That kind of thing never bothered me but I think that just comes with growing up on stage where every single night you are in front of a live audience that is literally judging you. So I don’t really care much about what other people think of me, but it is always about what I think of me. I go through these rollercoaster rides of wanting to hide and then I’m like “I’ve got this, I deserve to be here, I’m special, I have a gift and I should use it.” Then I have these other days where I’m like “I totally have everybody fooled, I’m just faking it, like I’m not really talented, everybody thinks that I am.” I went through this whole stage and I actually wrote a song that is going to be one of the B-sides on the vinyl solely about that. I’m this beacon of hope to a lot of people, with a lot of fans that look up to me as their hope as almost like a surrogate. I’m kind of their hero and nobody knows that I’m just a nobody. I’m just like this dork from Pennsylvania where the stars kind of aligned, I’m able to call this my career now and I’m able to be that beacon of hope to everybody. I appreciate so much that I’m able to be that to people as I didn’t really have that growing up, as far as idols that I could look up to, so the fact that I’m that for so many people is amazing. However, at the same time it’s kind of unnerving. I go through bouts of depression and I’m just like everybody else, but I’m just in this position where I kind of have to be strong for a lot of people.
It’s important to just be yourself through all of this though right? What I realise through going through all that, is that the more that I’m like myself and not trying to be anything that I’m not, I think the better role model that I am. Owning my flaws and everything that I am, It feels like the four of us against the world and we are still proving ourselves. Maybe we are not so much proving ourselves like “Hey, look at me we are in a band” like we did back in the day, it’s more that now we are proving that we deserve to be here. Through writing this record, I think I have realised more the importance of being unapologetically you, right or wrong. When you try too hard to be a good role model and if you try too hard to be something that you are not or try to be perfect, you end up making more mistakes then by just following your gut and what you believe is right. So I tried to abide to that and through me kind of realising that again for the millionth time in my life, I think it’s brought a lot of closure and peace in myself. I have come out of the other side of it with this record with a new confidence in myself and knowing that I’m doing the right thing by putting out these songs. By being a little more personal with our fans and by admitting certain things and all of that. So yeah, so far, so good I guess. I’m sure I will go through it again and that’s the beauty of music. I feel like next time I will be able to remember the time before and say “Okay, I did it once!”, and I will pull myself out of it again.
How else did Nick Raskulinecz shape the album? Nick is amazing, he literally became our fifth member of the band. He was in it with us from the absolute beginning, from the conception of the album idea through recording, through mixing and mastering which was amazing to me. Whenever I would be doing guitar or vocals, he wasn’t like in the control room, he was literally two feet from us whenever we were doing anything. He had all these amazing tricks up his sleeve, to get us to stop thinking so much or stop trying so hard to make everything perfect. He said “The one thing I haven’t heard on the record is the things that you do live which are very spontaneous, you can feel the excitement and the magical uncertainty of where it’s going to go and I really want to capture that this time.” Most of these recordings are just performances, and a lot of these we played entirely from front to back as in that way, and I sang the whole thing as one take, because he wanted me to capture that journey of the song and that blooming that happens. It’s amazing to hear that edge. That idea of recording we had never done before, it was really fun to just be spontaneous and in the moment. It’s the closest that we have ever come to having the most Halestorm sounding record yet. It’s just us being very honest, not just lyrically but musically as well, he was a huge part of that.
How did the song 'Black Vultures' come together? So with ‘Black Vultures’ we were on a bit of a break from recording, Nick (Raskulinecz) had to go to California to work with the Alice In Chains guys for a couple of songs, so we had the studio to ourselves and our good friend from 10 Years, Brian Vodinh came over and we decided to jam together as he is an amazing musician. So I think it was my guitar player, me and Brian all jamming in the room and one of the engineers ended up recording it, then we all parted ways. I had some friends over, we all got wasted and I woke up the next day hung over but Brian had sent me the instrumental and I was listening to it and we had already titled the song ‘Black Vultures’ as an instrumental because there were vultures all around the studio. I was like “That’s actually a really cool title!” I ended up putting the whole song together in like two hours just for sh*ts and giggles and sent it to the band. They were like “Oh my god, this is amazing…you should send it to Nick!” and I’m like “No!”, but we sent it to our producer anyway, and then yeah, we ended up recording ‘Black Vultures’!
With the awareness that has been raised for women in rock, and in the entertainment industry overall recently. Do you feel like we are finally at a turning point? Absolutely I see a turning point, there has been like an evolution in my journey. For instance in the beginning, I grew up in a household that didn’t put any limitations on me just because I was a girl, in fact it was never even discussed. My childhood naivety was actually beneficial to me as a kid because I had blinders on, I didn’t know that when I got out in the real world that there was going to be people that were like “No, you probably shouldn’t do that because you’re a girl” people just trying to bring me down. So when it started happening and I was getting in situations like when we were touring, nobody was expecting me to be in the band, everyone thought I was the girlfriend or the merch girl or the groupie, that kind of thing. So then I would end up going out on stage and proving everybody wrong. I use it as a weapon so to speak like ”Oh yeah, you’re not expecting me, well watch this!” Then you get into the industry side of it. When we started to shop for labels and get our songs on the radio, we got a lot of the same conversations. They would say “We love what you do and you guys are talented but we don’t know what to do with you!” and I was like, “Well what do you mean?”. They’d say, “First of all, women in rock music, that’s not really a thing, we can’t sell that and number two, even if we do get a song on the radio, if the programme director’s already have another girl on their playlist, you will have an even more difficult time because they have already filled up what they call the novelty slot. It’s a girl, it’s a novelty.” I said “That’s absolutely ridiculous and I’m still going to do this anyway!” So that ended up driving me and it’s amazing to now be on the other side of it. I go to these festivals and play these shows and I’m not the only girl on the bill, I’m one of many. From a crowd perspective it has traditionally in the past couple of years been like 60/40 male/female at a hard rock show, more males than females. Now it’s completely flipped, it’s 60/40 female/male. It’s amazing to be on the stage and look them in the eye and be like “Don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t live or dress the way that you want to dress, that you can’t be who you want to be, because me and all of these girls are living proof that you absolutely can, and once more, people that tell you that you can’t, you tell them to come and talk to us because we have got a thing or two to say about that.” It’s such a beautiful time to be a girl, and a beautiful time for the whole community with everyone coming together to lift each other up. It’s a very special thing.
So, how excited are you for your upcoming UK tour? I’m so excited, it’s been far too long since we have been over there. I’ll tell you something, You have to understand we are from the States and we grew up on watching these live DVDs and live VHS tapes from our favourite artists playing in the UK, and since the time we started the band, my brother and I would be like “Man, do you think we will ever get to go to the UK? Do you think they will like us?” like that would be so crazy. Now that we are able to come back and truly be able to see fans that have completely opened their arms to what we do is a childhood dream come true. I can’t wait to get overseas and see all of the UK fans. I don’t know if you guys realise that you’re some of the best rock fans in the world. To say that we are excited is a complete understatement. Just personally, I want to say a huge thank you to all of the UK fans for allowing us to do what we love every single day.
What else can we expect to see from Halestorm in 2018? Oh my goodness, well 2018 is going to be nuts as we have a lot more to prove, you never run out of dreams! On this album cycle I’m looking forward to knocking a lot of things off from my bucket list.
What was your first major project, and what was that whole experience like for you? My first lead doubling role and fight sequence was on I’ Frankenstein. It was also the first time that I did full face and body prosthetics. To say it was stressful would be an understatement! I had a Kali (Philippino martial art) inspired fight scene with Aaron Eckhart, who had been training Kali for 6 months leading up to the film. I had no experience in Kali and had a weekend to train before my first rehearsal with Aaron. Aaron actually walked out of the rehearsal part way through because I could not keep up with him and the choreography. Needless to say that was just motivation for me to train harder. It was also a film that I did some of my most dangerous stunts on, unfortunately most of them were cut from the film! One in particular, I got suplexed (wrestling move where you are picked up from behind and lifted backwards onto your head and shoulders) by Aaron’s character onto a concrete floor during the fight. The shot didn’t allow for a mat so I could only wear minimal personal protection. Because I had a prosthetic head on, the creature department made me up a moulded polycarbonate skull cap to wear underneath. I also made sure that I went to the toilet several times leading up to the take as I didn’t want to be known as the stunt guy who got knocked out and pissed himself!
How did you get the role of Moloch in Solo, and can you tell us a bit about what attracted you to playing the part? I was called to work in the UK on Wonder Woman midway through 2015. At the time I had no interest in working on the new Star Wars films as I just assumed they would be similar to the prequels and be mostly CGI! I was surprised to be contacted by a very talented 2nd unit director, Brad Allan (once the captain of Jackie Chan’s stunt team) who asked me to send in my creature performance resume. I knew if he was involved then there would be a lot of live action sequences. I was totally blown away by the creature departments use of animatronics, puppetry and live performance. I was actually called in to test the suit to be the stunt double for Moloch. But after the production saw what I could do in the suit and the physicality I had, I was later given the cast role.
Can you tell us a bit about what those sets were actually like to work on whilst being Moloch? The sets are real works of art with such amazing attention to detail. Combine that with a live Lady Proxima animatronic puppet and lead actors, it is very easy to get into character and truly immerse yourself in the characters. The White Worms den was a complete set, not green screen or added elements. Which posed a great challenge as Moloch because I had zero vision and had to rely on video goggles and a camera mounted on my chest to navigate stairs and water, all under ultra violet light which the camera doesn’t register so it was basically black!
What was the most rewarding scene for you to do, and why? The most rewarding scene I did never made the final cut! I can’t really say what it was in case it does resurface in the digital release. But it involved another character I played and a small fight sequence with Han. The way it was shot looked incredible. Fingers crossed it resurfaces.
Can you tell us about the process of getting ready to play Moloch for the day? Because Moloch had an animatronic head I didn’t have to go through hair and makeup! This made the process much simpler unlike having to have a prosthetic head done over 4 hours. So I would arrive on set, get into my wardrobe up to the neck, (have my oatmilk latte and croissant), wait until I was required on set, then put on the animatronic head.
Also, what did you enjoy the most about working with Ron Howard? Ron Howard puts a lot of faith in his team, he is very approachable and open to suggestions of how to represent the character in the scene. As you can imagine, Moloch had a lot of restrictions due to minimal visibility, size and weight. Because of these, I would help come up with solutions of what I thought was achievable for the staging that Ron required. On other occasions I would just have to trust Ron’s judgment and do what felt ridiculous or dangerous, only to watch the playback and see that it looked amazing! He really is a master of his craft.
When it comes to Star Wars, we have to ask about the creature workshop. What was it like for you to just be surrounded by so many who have that same love for the craft? Well I have had the pleasure to work with some of the best creature departments in the world and Neal Scanlans’ team is no different. The fabricators and animatronic technicians are super talented and artistic so you get a real sense of responsibility to do the absolute best job you can to make the creature 100% believable. Some of the ideas that get thrown at you can be truly ludicrous, but unless you are willing to reject convention and try something new you never know what might be possible. CC-4M a labour droid which I played in the Kessel Mines is only on screen for a few moments, it is a large white mining robot which I performed on stilts. It had a claw on one arm and a fully functioning jack hammer on the other, to say the least it was back breakingly heavy and awkward to manoeuvre! After a lot of rehearsals and a few takes (so that cast and extras knew I would stop for nobody) I was able to make it move very fast and dynamically during the droid revolution. The pain and discomfort was definitely worth the fun!
You were the stunt double for David Thewlis in Wonder Woman, so can you tell us a bit about that whole experience, and maybe what you enjoyed the most from it? On a technical front, Wonder Woman was shot on film stock, this is very rare in productions today due to the extra cost associated with developing the film, but it gives the most amazing look. Working with Damo Caro (2nd unit director) he was a great believer that if it was worth being “immortalised” on film it was worth doing right! Damon is also a very well respected martial artist so his attention to detail was incredible, which also meant a lot of takes, I mean a lot… But the end result speaks for itself.
It feels like Wonder Woman has become one of the standouts of the recent DC films already. However for you, why do you think this film in particular has become so relatable with audiences? Wonder Woman is really the perfect combination for a film, which came at a time when women in the industry are being recognised more, it has an amazing lead cast, a total badass heroine and an army of beautiful and diverse Amazonians. So it really should be no surprise that it did so well at the box office. If you Youtube “Ann Wolf knockout” (she played Artemis) you can see the reality of what these actors get up to in their spare time! It should also be said that Patty Jenkins is a badass! She always had a very strong vision for how she wanted to portray the Amazonians and would not settle for anything less. It was a real pleasure working on Wonder Woman and being a part of what will be looked at as a modern classic.
What was it like to work as a stunt double in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and what do you remember the most from this experience? I did a fight sequence with Kevin Mcnally (Gibbs) it was very hot and we were all wearing multiple layers of costume, wigs and makeup doing a very long action sequence. Kevin was really struggling in the heat and would just improvise the fight each take which made for some really entertaining and dangerous moments! I was so worried that he was going to pass out at any moment! Later that night I ran into Kevin on the street after dinner, he totally didn’t recognise me out of costume, but when I re-introduced myself he gave me a massive hug and thanked me for taking such great care of him and smashing ourselves reacting to his random sword barrage. It was the first time in all the Pirates’ films that he got to do a proper sword fight and I believe he had just turned 60! So it was a real bucket list moment for him and such a pleasure to get that kind of feedback!
What was it like to be the stunt double for Tom Hiddleston in Thor Ragnarok? Tom is an absolute master of his craft, he IS Loki. Tom was also very clear he wanted to do all of Loki’s action, which he is more than capable of as he is a very physical actor. It was only when production would have to intervene, deeming the action too dangerous, that I would step in to double for him. For me this is one of the best and most challenging roles as a double because you have to be very creative in the rehearsal process to develop movements and choreography that are new and exciting which you would then get the time to teach to the actor, so the process is a lot more inclusive and artistic. When the call did come that production would not allow Tom to do a specific stunt he would come to me and say something like “Ok, this one is on you, make it the biggest, gnarliest, gag they have ever seen! But take care!” So again I would have a sense of great responsibility to do him justice because I know that if he was strapped into the rig he would be laying it all on the line!
What's been the most challenging scene for you to do since starting out, and why? I have been blessed and cursed to do some pretty intense fight scenes with different actors over the years whilst wearing some incredible prosthetics or animatronics, but the limited mobility and vision has made it exceptionally challenging and of course with the lead actor these scenes involve close up camera angles which don’t allow you to “cheat” the action. I have had a couple of occasions where I have had to punch or strike an actor with a weapon very close to their head. They either have to react to the hit or block it, and I have found myself contemplating a career change! This is because you can either pull the strike and make the action safe but risk it looking soft, requiring multiple takes, or go full out and just rely on what senses you have left with the limited vision and hope the actor doesn’t make a mistake and end up with a damaged “money maker” (face). So yeah sometimes it feels like a lose-lose situation.
Can you tell us a bit about how much prep actually goes into some of the fight scenes you've done? In recent years there has been a real throwback to live action and the only way to achieve this is to have adequate rehearsal time to develop the choreography and stunts. I have been lucky to work with some of the most well respected action teams and individuals in the industry and have often had up to 3 months of rehearsal time to develop a pre-visualisation of the sequence even before the principal photography begins. Jackie Chan once said “Everyone wants Jackie Chan action but they won’t give me Jackie Chan time to rehearse.” Thankfully this is changing and action sequences are getting better and safer because of it.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2018? For this we will have to wait and see! But I have been in negotiations with a Broadway production, so you never know where one of my creatures might show up!
Mancunian singer-songwriter Rae Stewart has released her EP ‘Hear Me’, featuring artfully mixed soulful vocals with 90s R&B and hip hop beats. The EP presents Rae’s versatility as an artist and showcases her unique Destiny’s Child meets Missy Elliot sound. In Rae’s own words, the release is, “a big accomplishment for me, as I share some personal feelings of what I've been through in life, realness only! I hope you love it as much as I do.” ‘Hear Me’ follows a history of success for Rae. Her single ‘Be Down’ landed a place in the top 30 on Music Week’s Pop/Commercial Chart and ‘Fake Love’ earned the title of DJ Targets Unsigned Artist Song of The Week on his Tuesday evening show. Rae is a unique artist whose talents have begun to blossom throughout the past months, with the added support of her creative team at Northside Media and also the talents of producer’s Triple B and Manze. Rae Stewart’s music story began at the young age of three when she first started singing. By the age of 18 she had already sang and performed with a group called Venus alongside two other girls from Manchester. In that time she had also competed on the TV programme, Asbo Teens to Beauty Queens. It was always clear that music was going to be a big part of her life. Rae kicked off the ‘Hear Me’ EP release with a private listening party in her home town of Manchester. She is booked to perform on an all-female line up for a charity in Camden on 25th of May. More shows are planned for the summer, keep checking her social media for the latest updates.
South African songbird and sweetheart Shekhinah has teamed up with Nigerian star Mr Eazi to release the remix of ‘Suited’; a perfect duet that is driving Africa into a frenzy. The track showcases a fresh power-driven sound with an Afro Pop vibe and portrays Shekhinah’s authenticity as a writer. ‘Suited’ is taken from Shekhinah’s debut album ‘Rose Gold,’ (Sony Music Africa). The single is currently one of the most played songs by a national artist on South African radio and was nominated for Record of the Year at the South African Music Awards (SAMAs). The album was nominated for 6 categories including Best Female Album, Best Album of The Year and Best Produced Album. ‘Suited’ Remix ft Mr Eazi follows a history of success for Shekhinah. In 2016 she had two South African number one hit singles, ‘Back To The Beach’ with Kyle Deutsch (which won Best Pop and Alternative at the MTV Africa Music Awards; Best Hit Single at the Metro FM Awards) and ‘Let You Know’ with Sketchy Bongo. Shekhinah followed these hit singles with a collaboration with dance music superstar Black Coffee titled ‘Your Eyes’ which became a smash hit and was rated as Black Coffee’s 6th best song by Billboard. Shekhinah’s’ music story began at the young age of 17 when she quickly rose to national attention as part of the global Idols franchise, reaching the top six of the show’s 8th season. In the time since then, she has focused on honing her craft by completing a live performance degree at AFDA. It is clear Shekhinah’s rise to the top has only just begun! Be sure to keep checking her social media for the latest updates.
Hailed as “Ireland’s answer to Calvin Harris,” Irish DJ/Producer, John Gibbons, is preparing to release the next big summer anthem, ‘Sweat’. The track showcases his unique spin on the 90s classic by Inner Circle, creating a bass irresistible to dance to. In John’s own words, he is, “extremely excited for this release. Every good summer needs a hot, sweaty soundtrack and with this single I’ve set out to encapsulate that feel-good vibe, which I believe will have people everywhere jumping, dancing and singing along! Get ready to ‘SWEAT’!” ‘Sweat’ follows a history of success for John. His breakout single ‘Would I Lie To You’ landed him at Number 1 on Shazam and over 33 million streams on Spotify. In addition, his music has been featured on the soundtrack of hit US TV show ‘Pretty Little Liars’, as well as becoming a regular feature on on BBC Radio 1's Dance Anthems over the last 12 months John Gibbons’ music story began at the young age of 15 when he quickly became a staple name in Dublin’s growing club scene and a regular feature on pirate radio stations. Shortly after, he earned a slot on Spin 1038 and began touring internationally and has continued his rise to the top since. Building up to the release of ‘Sweat’, John toured with Justin Bieber, Tiesto, Jax Jones and Craig David amongst others in the past 12 months, in addition to remixing numerous hit singles including Anne Marie’s global smash ‘Heavy’. He also had a sold out show at the iconic Olympia Theatre in Dublin, not to mention his 100+ million streams on Spotify. It is no surprise that John Gibbons has become one of the most in demand DJs across the festival season in 2018, with festival appearances and residencies booked across Europe, including support for The Chainsmokers on their stadium tour in Ireland in June. More shows are planned for the summer, keep checking his social media for the latest updates.
‘Pay Attention’ is the new single from London power vocalist J Webb, featuring rap heavy weight Honours Tea. Described as Rihanna meets Anne Marie, J Webb is a no-messing force of nature who embodies female empowerment and self-reliance. The young singer says “’Pay Attention’ is a female anthem, showing your lover you’re not taking a backseat - his full attention is needed from start to finish. I had a lot of fun building the track and have even more fun performing it.” J Webb is a self-employed model, performer and business woman who is as savvy as she is sassy. She says, “as an artist, I want my music to serve the same qualities which I needed as a child, an expression of all emotions and most importantly the love of self.... strong, confident, and above all, true to how I feel... no sugar coating.” From an early age, music truly served its purpose in J Webb’s life. She was dependent on music to help her cope with strong emotions, happy, sad, in love or angry... music always held the invisible answer. J Webb was an instant hit as a model and she has driven her own career from the start. She says, “being a self-employed woman was the greatest gift I could have given to myself. But now I’m ready to make music again.” J Webb reconnected with a producer she’d known since she was 16. The pair had worked on a demo together which landed J Webb a deal with Sony. The leading track Down and Dirty was a huge success and won J Webb a loyal fanbase in countries all over the world. Now on her own label, J Webb is unstoppable. “Pay Attention” to this fresh new talent…
So how did you first get into illustration? I read comics, mainly Marvel comics, since I was 4 years old and since that fateful day many moons ago, all I've wanted to do was draw my own funny book adventures. Once I left school in sunny Belfast I started submitting samples of my work to various comic companies in America and the UK. I was also running a comic shop out the back of Good Vibrations record shop, which was run by Terri Hooley, punk guru of N. Ireland and the guy who discovered the Undertones.You may have seen the film, I am not in it! Garth Ennis, who wrote Preacher, was one of my regular customers and together we teamed up and made the graphic novel Troubled Souls (a hard hitting dissection of the political landscape in N. Ireland at the time) for Fleetway, who published Judge Dredd. After working on various Dredd stories for them, I made my way accross the Atlantic and started working for DC. Simple as that!
What was your first major job role as an artist, and what was that whole experience like for you? Troubled Souls was my first major work (I had drawn a couple of GI Joe stories before that) and it was a fully painted book. However I had never painted before in my life so it was a complete learning experience, making a lot of mistakes in public, and very frustrating. I painted a bunch of other stuff before I was able to ditch the painting and just do the black and white work, which is what I really wanted.
What was it like to illustrate Batman, and how did you go about applying your own approach to this iconic character? Batman was one of my major bucket list characters, and the story was by Warren Ellis, who writes very grim n gritty stories, so a perfect fit for me. I got to do a run of Detective covers too which was a real thrill, especially when 2 of them made it into the Best Batman Covers book a few years ago.
Switching to Marvel, we must also ask what you enjoyed the most about illustrating Spider-Man? Spiderman was the first comic I collected and he remains one of my favourite super heroes, so again, major bucket! I love the art of Steve Ditko, the eccentric creator of Spidey, and tried to bring a bit of him to my art, crossed with an animated style...not 100 percent sure I succeeded but it was fun nonetheless!
We have to ask you, which superhero film has been your favourite from the last ten years, and why? Christ, that is a difficult one but I think Captain America-Winter Soldier followed by Infinity Wars - the Russo Bros really know their super meat and potatoes! I regularly watch the freeway fight scene in Winter Soldier and marvel (sorry) at the storytelling, and the kinetic energy they imbue the whole film with.
Deadpool seems like quite a crazy character to illustrate. How fun was that for you, and what is he like to put together? I knew nothing about Deadpool when I was asked to draw him, so nipped to my LCS and picked up a few books. He's a complete riot, and I enjoyed the freedom that the no holds barred stories allowed me.
What was it like to work in the Star Wars world, and which character did you find the most challenging to illustrate? I got to draw Darth Vader and that was all that mattered. I find likenesses a struggle so that was my stumbling block right there. Thank god, no Jar Jar.
The Simpsons comic you worked on looked really dark! So what was it like to work with these family friendly characters in such a nightmarish way? That was part of The Treehouse of Horror so it had a real horror flick vibe. The real problem was nailing the character's looks. A line out of place and everything looks wrong with the Simpsons. So tricky. As tricky as rocking a rhyme, I'd imagine.
So how did you get involved with Mars Attacks! and how fun has it been to work on the trading cards version of this cult classic? The editor at Topps was a big fan of my work, and they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mars Attacks! with a new comic, which happened to be written by my very good friend John (Chew) Layman, a god among men. So they invited me on board. It was fantastic fun, giant insects killing humans, giant robots killing humans, martians killing humans, humans killing humans... a barrel of laughs!
You're involved with Hi8us, so how did that come about, and how important has it been to work in this world for you? I've always enjoyed teaching, and one of the people who worked with me knew the people at Hi8us, and so it came to pass. I love teaching, helping people learn to draw or figure out how to tell a story, itâ€™s very rewarding. I am currently teaching a new class of aspiring comic artists, so many talented folks. Fingers crossed they can make it into comics.
Which character has been the hardest for you to illustrate and why? Superman - he's just so clean cut and goody goody, nothing for me to work with there!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to make it in the comic book illustration world? Draw all the time, but no pin ups or posters. Pages of continuity, that's what publishers want to see. Also draw stuff you hate drawing, horses, bicycles, hands, cats. Until you get good at them. In comics you need to be able to draw anything at the drop of a hat, so itâ€™s best to be prepared.
What else can we expect to see from John McCrea in 2018? My new Image comic Dead Rabbit comes out in October. Written by Gerry (Deadpool) Duggan, it's the story of a famous Boston bank robber called the Dead Rabbit who comes out of retirement to help save the woman he loves. But no one is happy he's back, not his wife, not the mafia and certainly not the cops. It's a noir crime story set in the not too distant future, mixing dark humour and hard hitting action. Check it out!!
How did you first get into illustration? I’ve always been drawing. I never wanted to do anything else. Even through the toughest times in my life, I could always just go hide away somewhere to draw and all the worries would go away.
What was your first major job role as a comic book artist, and what was that whole experience like for you? An editor from the US saw my portfolio 4 years ago at a comic convention here in London. I drew a cover for their Steven Universe comic and one thing led to another. It’s been quite a ride. You never know what they’ll ask you to draw. They’ll just ask me to do like an 80s transformer holding up a sexy cat chick and then I’m like “Okay.”
When you look at your work, it's clear that you have your own very unique style. So for you, how did that natural approach to illustration come about? I used to draw in pen & ink and wanted very much to be a comic artist, but nobody seemed to show any interest in what I was doing. So I started trying out this “no line art” technique that I noticed a bunch of illustrators and animators working in, and I managed to get somewhere with it. I love walking that fine line between simplicity and detail. A lot of times I find myself drawing too much and then at some point I start erasing and removing some of what I did in order to get a result that I’m actually happy with.
Which Star Trek comic book cover has been the most rewarding for you to put together, and why? I love what I managed to do with Boldly Go #8 and #9. For Issue 8 I got to design these space assassins and I referenced a lot of vintage 60s G.I. Joe box art to help me strike the right kind of retro space art vibe. For #9 I really enjoyed getting to envision the Vulkans and their new planet the way I wanted to, along with Uhura’s dress. The story inside looks nothing like that, but it’s definitely one of my favourite pieces so far.
Which character do you enjoy working on the most in this world, and why? Uhura is loads of fun to draw because I get to give her different hair styles and outfits. It also helps that Zoe Saldana is incredibly beautiful.
How did you end up doing a poster for Superfriends, and what did you find the most exciting about putting your own spin on these iconic superhero characters? I just did it for myself really, as a piece of fan art. Obviously the Super Powers: Galactic Guardians series is the best season of that show, but I kept to the original title just for nostalgia and recognisability. I copied the iconic group shot from the opening credits and then added the Hall of Justice and everything around them, as well as some of the supporting characters from throughout the seasons. The key to making it feel more modern was giving the colour palette a lot of twilight-ish tones of purples and blues, plus making the golds more brown instead of yellow. Basically moving it away from the bright pop art colours that we’re used to with vintage superhero art.
What's your most favourite superhero film, and why? The Dark Knight, I guess, though Batman 1989 is my all time favourite. That movie was everything to me when I was a little 6 year old. Before that I thought Superman was the only superhero that existed and I didn’t know about comics. My first introduction to him was when my grandpa watched the Christopher Reeve movies on TV. I was really into Dracula at the time, so when my dad told me there were other superheroes and described Batman to me, I went nuts because I imagined like a super Dracula with superpowers! Then when the Batman 1989 trailers came out, my dad was of that generation of fans that was so bewildered and disappointed at how that movie looked while I was totally flipping out getting excited with adrenaline because I’d never seen anything like that and it was the coolest looking thing ever. Other than that, I’m not as crazy about superhero movies as I should be.
How did you end up working with Mondo for the adventure time poster, and what do you remember the most about putting this one together? Rob and Mitch emailed me out of nowhere. I was quite surprised, I don’t know which of my art they responded to, they never mentioned. I’m guessing it was the Powerpuff Girls and Steven Universe stuff since they’ve been having me do more art for animated shows. At the time I was listening to Moody Blues, Tame Impala, Led Zeppelin, Simon & Garfunkel, and other psychedelic stuff and so it inspired me to do something that would look like an album cover if Adventure Time existed back in 1968 or whenever. I liked that I got to do something different with it, rather than the usual crazy candy land stuff you always see. Same goes for some of the other cartoons I’ve done, but I’m not allowed to talk about those yet.
What was the Pacific Rim Uprising poster like to work on. It looks like it was a bit more "simplistic" as it's just the face of the main character, but I'm sure that it was just as hard in other ways right? I was still in marketing at the Legendary Pictures London offices at the time and it was just one of many briefs that came in for the sequel. We’d done some design work on the style guide and other things. They wanted to have Wanted posters of John Boyega’s character for San Diego Comic Con and one of the guys was already doing a photo version so they had me do an illustrated option. Never got used, but oh well. That happens a lot in movie marketing. A LOT.
How did you get involved with Star Wars Adventures, and what was it like to work in this iconic world? My IDW editor, Sarah, told me they were trying to pitch for a line of comics aimed at kids. So she said “Draw whatever you want”. I decided to just do all the droids and creatures. Originally the colours were more sandy and natural but I was asked to make them much more brighter and saturated.
Which Star Wars character would you really love to illustrate that you haven't done already, and why? The Ewoks. I love the Ewoks! Both live action and animated. They were my favourite when I was a kid. I loved that cartoon—the theme song was so funky!
What else can we expect to see from you in 2018? I’ve got some more Mondo prints coming out this year. There’s always comic covers in the pipeline and I want to start hitting some conventions here in Europe.
So how did you first get into illustration? I studied Illustration at University, then I became a high school teacher for a few years. After some time I realised that I just needed to focus on doing what I really wanted to do which was work in the fields of comics and illustration so I embarked on that journey. I started making my own comics and put them out on the internet in the hope of gaining experience and finding other people to work with. That's pretty much what happened.
What was your first major role as an illustrator, and what do you remember the most from that experience? My first major thing was working on the Amelia Cole series with Adam P Knave and DJ Kirkbride. We became friends quickly and started working on a story that took five years to tell. Those five years were 'comics university' for me. We did a heck of a lot of learning while making Amelia Cole but we put out a pretty satisfying story in the process.
So, how did you end up working on the Star Wars Adventures comics, and what have you enjoyed the most about working in that world? I was approached by IDW Publishing with whom I'd worked for many years. They asked me to pitch some stories so I did! I aimed quite high and pitched a Yoda strip to start with but I was asked to leave the main characters alone and focus on some of the interesting background ones. This was wonderful for me because as a lifelong Star Wars nut, I got to dive into the Star Wars universe and swim around discovering things. I very much enjoyed trying to play with the humour aspect of Star Wars too. Sometimes, folk forget that Star Wars is supposed to be primarliy for children. It's a space fairy tale that can teach us important things but that should strive to be fun AND funny.
Which character do you find the most rewarding to illustrate for the Star Wars Adventures comics, and why? Honestly, getting to draw Jabba The Hutt in my Max Rebo story (out in August) was a massive thrill. I think perhaps Max Rebo himself, was very fulfilling because I had to find a way to make his strange physique function outside of his giant piano doodah. People mistakenly think that he has two arms and two legs because of a mistake that was made in the toy designs. He actually only has two legs which function as his arms as well. That was fun to draw.
We must ask you, what's your favourite Star Wars film from the last decade, and why? Without a doubt, it's The Last Jedi. I was there in 1977 when Luke's adventures began and to me the explanation of how he ends up where he does fits perfectly with his arc. Let me sum it up like this. Luke's journey is about peace. NOT killing and being a warrior. His aim by the end of The Last Jedi is summed up by Rose: SAVE what you love. He became a true Jedi when he refused to kill his father and by doing so, saved Anakin. He returned to this in TLJ. He refused to kill Kylo and by doing this, saved Leia. Jedi never attack, only defend. In years to come people will look back on this movie and GET IT. Superb.
What was it like to illustrate the iconic Judge Dredd, and how did you go about putting your own approach on this iconic character? Well, I grew up with reading Dredd so it was a massive thrill! Actually drawing the uniform is so tricky that I didn't really consider adding my own stamp. I must point out that the uniform that I drew on Dredd on that cover is one that he cobbled together from things he found laying around. It's not all proper Judge uniform - it's part of the story. Really worth a read! Judge Dredd: Mega City Zero from IDW. Groovy stuff.
What has been the most exciting part about working on the The Once and Future Queen comics, and can you tell us a bit about what Dark Horse Comics are like to work with? After so many years drawing Amelia Cole which is all an ages tale, OAFQ was interesting because it's skewed to a slightly older audience. There are themes in there that are more complex and sensitive. There's plenty of swash buckling fun, of course. I made it my focus to draw the figures more realistically and therefore took a lot of reference photos. It was a pretty steep learning curve and improved my drawing a lot. I also took a lot of chances with the colouring of this book! I think some parts worked extremely well and others perhaps didn't turn out quite as I'd hoped. That's art for ya! I love the book though, it was a whirlwind to make. Dark Horse were easy to work with. They did their editoral thing when needed and left us alone the rest of the time. Nice folks.
What's the Amelia Cole world like to be a part of, and for those that might of not read it just yet, why should they check it out? The Amelia Cole world(s) was a wonderful, exciting and transformative experience for me. I started drawing in 2011 and didn't stop until 2016. Almost every single day of those years, I was drawing Amelia Cole and her adventures. Before that, I had drawn maybe twenty pages of comics in my whole life. As I said, before, I had so much to learn (still do) but I made some enormous leaps during that time. As for the story itself, I had a fair bit to do in the creation of characters and settings but Adam and DJ came up with what I believe is a marvellous story. It has a beautiful message and some extremely moving moments. As an artist I see the flaws but as a reader, I am so very proud of what we did. I think everyone, especially young people, can get a lot out of the Amelia story. There's a bunch of humour, there's a true sense of inclusiveness, there's a message of selflessness and nobility and doing the right thing. In this splintered society that live in, we need stories like Amelia Cole to remind us (especially the young) that there is a RIGHT way.
The illustration you did of Ripley is really cool. What was that like to put together, and how did you go about giving your own spin on this iconic character, as well as the Xenomorph! Thank you! It came together pretty quickly actually. Alien Day was looming so I decided to make a print for it. It started out with me just trying to get Ripley and Newt's likenesses - in my own style. I wanted to create an image that was a bit brighter than the usual dark greens and blacks that you see in Alien pictures so I focused on the burning of the eggs. Fried eggs!
Hardest page for you to illustrate ever, and why? There is a scene at the end of Amelia Cole which reduced me to tears while I was drawing it. That was very hard. When you read it, you'll know. I can't say more than that!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to make it in illustration? Realise and accept that it's a lifelong pursuit. If you want to make art, decide that that's what you will do and that you will do all in your power to keep doing it. It might mean doing other jobs to put food on the table, but that's art for you. It's a long game. Never give up, even when you think your own work is worthless. Keep going. Get better. You will get better and you'll have moments of gleaming perfection along the way. Work for those little moments, maybe you'll be so good that you have a lot of them!
What else can we expect to see from you in 2018? Star Wars Adventures 13 has a Max Rebo story written and drawn by me - that comes out in August. I'm doing a monthly strip called Space Stupids for GOOF! Comic which start in August also. I've been drawing a long form graphic novel for two years called Sheâ€™s Not There, written by Ellis Bojar. I will be finishing that by the end of the year so you will see that in 2019. That's a biggie for me. It's a supernatural murder mystery set in England in 1973. Other than that, I'll be at conventions like Thought Bubble in Leeds in September and playing all over the country in Blues Harvest my galactic party movie music band. Fun all around!
So how did you first get involved in the video games world? I think like most things in life, it was a case of right place right time. I was coming to the end of a comics project and was on the lookout for something new and by chance ended up with what was initially supposed to be a short-term role with Sony PlayStation, which in fact ended up lasting nearly five years.
What was your first major project to work on, and what do you remember the most about this time? So straight of the bat, I was on the SingStar franchise, with the first release being I believe SingStar: Disney. Looking back at it now man was it all an eye opener, I'd been so used to the sometimes seat of your pants and trusting your instincts pace of the comic book world so to now be told â€œYou can spend like a week/2 weeks to get that image rightâ€? just felt like artistic heaven.
Over the last ten years, what's been the most rewarding video game for you to work on, and why? There are a few I could think of, but if I'd have to choose one then it'd probably be DanceStar Party Hits, it came at a time when I really could feel myself growing more confident artistically and I was working with some great people who helped me to grow so much.
So, when and how did you get involved in illustration? I'd drawn a little bit as a kid, with big ol dreams of getting into the animation business which fuelled me all the way to pursue that as a degree. But I found the more I grew artistically, the more avenues I discovered and focused on exploring so I didn't actively begin to focus on Illustrating until two things happened. The first thing was getting offered the chance to do some storyboarding and concept work on the Harry Potter title Book of Potions and the second was attending Comic Conventions, both just lit that fire and desire in me and I'd get so many weird and wonderful sketch request that you just never want to put a pencil down again.
What was it like to work on the Transformers, and what did you enjoy the most about working in this iconic world? Dream come true, no other words to describe it. I've been a hardcore Transformers fan since as far back as I can remember and the first book I ever got to work on was as the colourist on Spotlight: Hot Rod (or Rodimus as he's now known) for IDW. It was a rollercoaster ride, as he is hands down one of my fave characters of all time. Making it even better was the fact that by the time I landed the gig I think I'd just finished my third year at Uni, so getting to turn up at my graduation ceremony with my first ever published piece of work was certainly a thrill. I mean there is nothing I haven't loved about working with those bots, I got to dabble in almost all the major incarnations G1, Beast Wars, Transformers Animated and the movie stuff, collaborate with some amazing artists working on characters I grew up watching and seeing my work on the cover of an issue or trade on the shelf of my local comic store. Yep, dream come true.
How long did the HUGE transformers print by Don Figueroa take to put together, and what was it like to work on? Damn, It's been a while since I've looked at this. So when I was first starting out as a colourist and I mean like maybe a few months after I first even attempted to tackle my first page, I decided I really wanted to sink my teeth into something epic. Then by chance, I stumbled upon this beautiful piece drawn by the amazing Don Figueroa and with his blessing, I started cracking on with it. I was so green at the time that I look at this project now as such a huge learning experience, simple things about how light forms shape etc + I actually coloured this entirely with a mouse!
You did your own take on the Force Awakens characters! So how fun was that, and which character did you find the most challenging to illustrate? Oh so much fun, I've always been a huge Star Wars fan so I rarely need an excuse to draw these characters, at the time I was putting that poster together, It was hard to get a good reference image of the characters so I do remember struggling to get some little details (like Finn's jacket) just right, so the brand new characters were probably the biggest challenge.
How did you go about putting your own spin on the iconic Joker character? For me drawing the Joker boils down to two components, the eyes and the grin. I think that regardless of which interpretation of the character you're referencing there always needs to be something dangerous, damaged and wild behind those eyes, a bomb with a cracked case in human form. So anytime I ever try to draw him, I just want to get those two elements right and the rest grows from there.
How did you get involved with The Avengers, and what do you remember the most about working on some of the biggest superheros of all time? Another one of those right places right time deals, my first time dabbling with characters from the Avengers rosters was due to a fortunate email from a company called Upper Deck and an offer to work on their Marvel Premier Sketch Card series. I just remember being over the moon at the opportunity to draw characters that had been lifelong favourites and of course I had to make sure Captain America was the first Avenger I ever drew.
Leading on from that nicely, we must ask you. What's been your favourite superhero film from the last ten years, and why? Oooooh, now that's just so hard to choose. I mean I'm a huge Hellboy 2 fan as I just love Ron Pearlman in anything he's in and I'm a huge Guillermo del Toro fan. But as a close tie, it'd probably be either Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1, they've just got it all, great pacing, tunes, some amazing cinematography and memorable moments.
You also got to work on Guardians of The Galaxy of course! So how did that happen, and what was that whole experience like for you? Huge thrill, I'd been a huge fan of the characters since the Annihilation: Conquest brought them back with their modern incarnation. So the first time I ever got to touch upon these characters was producing a variant movie poster for PictureHouse Cinema, I'd been approached about a year before by them and had done maybe one or two beforehand and have now done variants for both Vol: 1 & 2. Like the Force Awakens poster, I also had the huge challenge of trying to get all those intricate little details right (Drax's tatt's being an absolute pain to get just right) but otherwise man it was so much fun, I loved just putting my own spin on these awesome characters and it was again a thrill when I got to revisit some of the gang last year with the Marvel Premier Series.
You did a cool cinema poster for Deadpool 2! So how fun was that, to work on this "crazy" yet funny superhero, and how did you go about giving him your own style? With Deadpool, the thing to remember is that the crazier the better, so you get to just think up all the weirdest, silliest idea you can think of, something that just makes your belly laugh when you think about it and you build from there. So you're having fun from start knowing that you can go anywhere with body language and concepts. Then with my style, well that just evolves over time, but with him, in particular, I just always want to make him as expressive and exaggerated as possible, taking huge ques from old Tex Avery cartoons.
What's been the hardest page you've ever had to work on, and why? Some of the Doctor Who pages are up there as the story is set within a museum of the Doctorâ€™s history, which was so full of Easter Eggs that you just have to spend half your time researching everything to make sure you get it all accurate. But otherwise, It's generally the more mundane pages that get me, with scenes full of action or big emotional beats it's so much easier to pick a pallet or approach to really enhance the mood or storytelling. But if you've got say just two characters sitting around chatting or something that, y'know it requires a more restrained approach and that's where the challenge comes in. One of the best lessons I've ever learnt is that in art it's easier to overcomplicate than simplify, so on pages like that you have to be careful to not throw too much in and do the storytelling a disservice.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2018? Quite a bit actually, I've got some new books in the works that should hopefully be out later this year, another trading card series with Upper Deck, I've got Train Sim World and Fishing Sim World coming out on PS4, Xbox One and Steam between now and Sep respectively and I should be doing some more variant movie posters before Christmas.
Nine Inch Nails - Bad Witch At just thirty minutes long ‘Bad Witch’ is the shortest release yet from Nine Inch Nails. It is the first album since ‘Year Zero’ to be produced by the band members and is the conclusion to the trilogy of EPs. First song and wonderfully titled ‘Sh*t Mirror’ grabs your attention immediately with Reznor shouting “Got a new face, it feels alright” and the opener continues to entertain and allure with its weird and chaotic sounds. ‘Ahead Of Ourselves’ is a dysfunctional heavily electronic number with loud outbursts, making this a stand out track with lots to offer, and not to mention messing with your mind slightly. Lead single ‘God Break Down The Door’ is very strange and experimental, with a raw David Bowie vibe and hypnotic vocals from Trent Reznor which accompany the trippy instruments wonderfully. This is a short and brilliantly weird album, and given that it is only 30 minutes long there is no excuse to not give it a listen for yourself! Nine Inch Nails deliver and continue to stand out with their unique industrial electronic sound. CL
Deaf Havana - Rituals English alt rock 5-piece Deaf Havana throw out the rulebook on fifth album ‘Rituals’ as vocalist James Veck-Gilodi changes things up with their writing process and deliver songs representative of the band in the present. Intro ‘Wake’ sounds almost angelic and sets the scene, before leading on to first proper track and single ‘Sinner’, which is bouncy and vibrant from the off, with a very mainstream catchy sound. It also features some strong high impact soulful choir vocals from the London Contemporary Voices choir who feature on five songs in total throughout the album. ‘Ritual’ is slower paced initially and very resonant, it shows off James VeckGilodi more so whilst having a very joyful sound. Keeping with the theme and going between contrast with light and good titles and darker evil ones. ‘Hell’ offers a lot of synths and electronics and is very pop driven with great vocals running through it.
‘Holy’ is probably the most commercial sounding song, it is well composed and structured and hard to resist. Especially with its big chorus. ‘Pure’ rivals this by having a positively sparkling chorus, something the band don’t struggle with. Closing song ‘Epiphany’ is one of the shortest and is very atmospheric and ethereal sounding. It feels like a good and complete note to close on. This is a well composed album, filled with extremely catchy melodies and hooks and swooning vocals but it would have been nice to have had more rock elements present, as this is so heavily pop influenced and quite different to what I was expecting, and what fans may expect. There is no denying their ability to write bloody catchy songs though, and it was a bold move to approach the writing process so differently. CL
Mike Shinoda - Post Traumatic This is the debut solo album from Mike Shinoda best known as rapper and producer of Linkin Park. He pours his feelings into this release, mourning the death of his bandmate Chester Bennington. Opener ‘Place To Start’ is ambient and sets the scene in this short song, with nice vocals from Mike that are stripped back and emotive. He asserts himself immediately as a singer and songwriter. The ending hits you hard with unexpected snippets of voicemails left for Mike offering condolences for losing his friend and bandmate. ‘Over Again’ flows with the same vibe and is very honest and raw about how he wasn’t ready to carry on with shows after Chester’s death, with lines such as “It was a month since he passed, maybe less and no one knew what to do, we were such a mess. We were texting, we were calling, we were checking in.” It’s hard not to be moved, especially towards the end with Mike’s pained vocals, conveying his intended feelings. ‘Watching As I Fall’ has a different feel with a stronger electronic influence and more straight up rap, it is a very strong offering. ‘Nothing Makes Sense Anymore’ features more cleverly written lyrics and is very melodic, showing another example of Mike’s strong capabilities. ‘About You’ has the first guest appearance from American Hip-Hop artist Blackbear which adds extra depth and helps it stand out further, as well as featuring some of Mike’s harshest and real lyrics: “I buckled up told myself to suck it up. I was scared to death to get up there and spill my f*cking guts”. Lead single ‘Crossing A Line’ has an air of optimism as Mike explores his career and decision to do a solo album and why he needed to do it.
‘Make It Up As I Go’ sees K.Flay lend some vocals who gives it a very different sound, adding more diversity to this already generous debut. Next up Deftones Chino Moreno and Machine Gun Kelly feature on the latest single track ‘Lift Off’, which has the most abstract lyrics, with lines like: “Lift off like Virgin Galactic. My Richard’s too Branson to f*ck with you bastards.” With Chino lending his signature vocals, mixed with Mike’s rapping and unusual lyrics, this one has a lot of different layers, making it a wise choice for a single and representation of the album. ‘Running From My Shadow’ is a strong and very catchy offering. With another guest appearance from grandson which is very impactful and fits wonderfully with the track. Closing song ‘Can’t Hear You Now’ is extremely melodic and Mike shines yet again with his impressive rapping skills mixed with other vocals and good rhythms and beats. It feels like the perfect way to wrap up as it highlights his struggles and emotions once more but most importantly closes with a message of hope, “Some days it doesn't take much to bring me down, but right now I'm floating above it all.” This solo debut must have been very difficult for Mike to create, but given how emotional, raw and deep it is, it also must have been very important and cathartic for him. Something he clearly needed to do to help himself. He gives everything he has got, mentally, lyrically and creatively, which given the nature was uncomfortable to hear but very moving. This is a brilliant and brave debut. CL
I, The Mapmaker - Searching Opener ‘Ghostwalker’ is melodic ambient hardcore at its best, highlighting what they are about and what it is they offer. It does a good job of setting the scene, with a strong start, resonant riffs and a nice contrast of vocals. Ash Emery‘s clean vocals soar throughout. ‘1933’ is fierce and emotive. It’s hard hitting with some raw sections, making it stand out further. In contrast ‘1933, Pt.2’ opens on a mellow ambience with slower paced instruments and emotional pained vocals drawn out for impact, both parts are equally powerful and add extra depth. ‘Disbelief’ picks up the pace again and features a nice surprise, in the form of Justine Jones, vocalist from Employed To Serve, which gives it an edge and makes it a crushing track. ‘Capsized’ features yet again more soaring clean vocals and ends on an emotional spoken section whilst featuring some brilliant dual vocals. The title track closes the EP and also features more spoken sections for impact. It brings the EP full circle, incorporating all elements seen throughout and closing it on a strong note. This is an enjoyable and impressive debut that hits hard and does the job. It is enough to leave you eager to hear more from them in the future. CL
Own Paw Thee Die - Highway To Pleasure Own Paw Thee Die are a four-piece Italian act who describe their sound as greasy fat rock with country southern sounds who write funny fictional lyrics. Which of course instantly gives them a unique edge. The opening and humorously titled ‘Pussy Pill In My Drink’ does some scene setting with its car and background noise before heavy solid riffs come in, followed by fierce commanding vocals. This is a great hard rocking track to kick off with. ‘Straight Eggs’ features bouncy riffs and a big gang chorus, making it hard not to resist its groove. The short and sweet title track ‘Highway To Pleasure’ adds more variety, with different darker vocals and helps break up the release. ‘In The Hanhouse’ picks up the fast pace and has an upbeat vibe. It is a stand out track which cleverly ties in to the first track with background music again.
Final track which is brilliantly titled ‘AHOY! (F*ck The Whales)’ is the longest offering, with great groovy southern guitar riffs, it will have you head banging for sure. It is a brilliant high energy way to end and contains some seriously funny chanting. With its chugging guitar and smashing approach it’s a memorable listen. This is all about fun hard rock, although the nature of lyrics and themes are not serious, they produce some straight up great rock, which makes for a great entertaining listen. You won’t regret checking it out. CL
The Condors - Joie de Vivre The Condors manage to claw back some of what’s been lost through the world of pop music and infuse that needed kick of melodic rock. If you picture any feel good movie from the 80s or 90s and throw any one of their songs into the mix it just works. The first track ‘Matter of Fact’ has got that toe tapping head bopping element to it and you just find yourself in love after the first listen. The easy listening happy vibe is enough to make you want to carry on for more. Feelings of joy are felt as second track ‘Girl Trouble’ begins with a fantastic piano opening, something akin to what you’d hear in an old fashioned jazz club. Combine that with the status-quo esque style of guitar playing and you’re in for a perfect cocktail of fun. The lead vocals provided by Patrick DiPuccio work well on every track and it cements that old rock and roll style that’s been forgotten about over the years. These guys just have a knack for nailing the music side of things it seems. ‘High Chaparral’ is a high octane instrumental that demands to be listened to. It’s one of those proper old school electric guitar songs, the kind you never hear now a days. It sings rather than shouts and it has such a similarity to Johnny Cash. This band really have the ability to expand on the world of rock and roll from the classic era. Although ‘When You Call out My Name’ is most notably the slowest song on the EP it still has enough of that “je ne sais quoi” to really set these guys apart from other bands who struggle to imitate music from the same genre. The Condors have that ability to grasp what made old school rock and roll artists so great and bring it together in an infusion and throw it back out. Their blend of intricate guitar playing and quite frankly spectacular vocals really set them apart from a lot of other bands out there at the moment. RO
My Dinosaur Life - Young Survivors Well if it wasn’t obvious from the band’s name that they take inspiration from Motion City Soundtrack then their sound will certainly cement that for anyone. To take the name of a band’s album for inspiration is one thing, but to seemlessly rip off their sound completely is another. I found it very difficult to enjoy this album because it felt like everything had been done before, there were no risks taken and it just felt predictable. From the kick off with ‘Yellow Walls’ the vocals just sound far too similar to the aforementioned band and that is a huge distraction. I thought that the second song in was really long, turns out it’s 5 minutes, it just feels longer because it’s pain stakingly average. How I would describe it would be “A long walk for a short drink of water” it feels like there’s a big build up and the pay off isn’t worth it at all. Aside from the bore of hearing the same thing that’s been heard before it’s actually quite upsetting to find that the production value even slips. On ‘Wooden Forts’ during the verse the lead singer is trying to sing but the guitar is too overpowering and it becomes more of a chore trying to hear rather than listen. Again ‘Reckless Northwest’ is nothing special, I don’t think the band aren’t talented that’s probably the worst thing. The melodies are actually quite fantastic, they’re catchy and they work really well together as a band. You can tell that each member are talented at their given instrument but the way it all comes together just sounds...dull. The vocals are far too similar to other artists and it’s like they don’t have their own personality as a band, there’s no differentiation. I appreciate that everyone has a favourite band and people are influenced in different ways but My Dinosaur Life are a doppelganger of Motion City Soundtrack, and it’s all been done before. They may be some people’s cup of tea and some people might absolutely love them, but unfortunately for me it just feels like they’ve just cloned their idols. The vocals are samey, the lyrics repetitive, and there is nothing new to keep me invested in this up and coming act. RO
”Trope harken back to an era that greatly influenced me, the alternative revolution of the 90s, but this is far from a nostalgic act. Everything about this band excites me and makes me feel alive, exactly what great music should do.” Joe Rudge - Music Supervisor Room, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Barry, The Fundamentals Of Caring “One of the greatest things about my job is being surprised by talented new bands that have great ideas about how to make a record. Such was the case recently with Trope. Great performances, songs and top notch production made for a very fun day for mastering their project.” Ted Jensen - Mastering Engineer Eagles, Deftones, Dave Mathews Band
This Wild Life - Petaluma Slow melodic rock is the forefront of what these guys stand for, they don’t need to prove themselves by being the fastest or the loudest and it’s what they’re good at. From opening track ‘Figure It Out’ we’re taken on a peaceful journey filled with wonderful acoustic melodies and quite frankly a wonderful voice. The vocals from lead singer Kevin Jordan are stunning and thought provoking. This is clearly displayed on the first track and the fact there’s nine more after just fills me with nothing more than hope. Hailing from California they’ve spent the past few years making a name for themselves all over the world, their amazing blend of acoustic rock is clearly loved enough for them to make it onto Vans Warped Tour more than once. The fact that there’s only two of them as well is fantastic. They’ve managed to bridge that gap between acoustic and rock, usually this can be hard and the result can be dull and boring. However it’s clear from ‘Headfirst’ and ‘Westside’ that this is not the case on either side. I find it difficult to discuss an acoustic album, there’s only so many ways you can say that it’s a combination of beautiful melodic rock with angelic vocals. No one song is the same but their formula is, that’s not to take anything away from these guys, far from it. It’s just a fantastic album. This Wild Life manage to bring their acoustic rock to life in a big way on their second album, the vocals compliment the music very well and this is definitely a good direction to go in. RO
William Ryan Key - Thirteen If you’re looking for something to fill the pop punk void in your heart since Yellowcard announced their departure then lead vocalist William Ryan Key’s EP will not help. This is something a lot more personal and in depth. What we’ve got here is a brilliant artist who has been overshadowed for a long time. Beginning with the soothing melody of ‘Old Friends’ I had to double take as I first heard William’s voice. I’m only used to him from his older days but I’d never noticed how good his vocals were, they’re raw and yet soft at the same time. The track itself is wonderful, it’s a slow ballad and has no big drop or obnoxious beat that kicks in, it’s just pleasant. I was concerned the rest of the EP would be the same, thankfully it’s not. Though it’s still acoustic ‘Form and Figure’ is a little more rambunctious shall we say, it evolves from the mellow starter and has more of a kick thrown into it. The background guitar work is intricate and well thought out and it shows that this man is not only an amazing singer but that he’s also better with an axe than I initially thought. The rhythm to ‘Thirty Days’ sounds very familiar, I can detect the changes in the tempo before they’ve even begun but it doesn’t take anything away from it strangely. It feels nice to have some sort of similarity. The lyrics used in this song are particularly great “I’ve hung the hero’s cape and worn the villain’s face.” There’s a darker side to this happy go lucky lead singer that we’ve clearly never seen and this is his release. It’s strange to see. Lead single ‘Vultures’ focuses more on what Yellowcard were great at, namely a breakup. The lyrics aren’t as teenage angsty as they used to be but you can see where the inspiration has come from. It also has the fastest paced beat on this whole album so naturally it would be more at home on the radio. It’s interesting to see the lead singer of a wildly popular pop punk outfit stand back and release something so deep and personal as this EP. I was never a huge fan of Yellowcard but I can’t deny the raw talent that William Ryan Key has. RO
Anthony Green - Would You Still Be In Love What a lovely, little surprise. I have positively fallen in love with every single aspect of this album from Philadelphia, PA solo artist, Anthony Green. Known for his vocal abilities and position as frontman of hardcore acts Circa Survive and Saosin, Green demonstrates his true talent on this indie-folk release, ‘Would You Still Be In Love’. The album begins with ‘Vera Lynn’, which rolls in with a tidy and neat folk jig like rhythm, and pops you in the face with a set of vocals that could only belong to a seasoned vocalist. Part of the most beloved aspect of hardcore is the gruffness of the vocals and the knotty gritty of that tone, and here we get to see a different side to Green’s vocals that still maintain their signature sound but placed in a different and more emotive backdrop. ‘A Little Death’ gives a little rocking horse, lullaby rhythm that is wonderfully autumnal and bittersweet in tone. ‘Real Magic’ has a delightfully childlike swing and bounce to it. The best part of this album, to me, is that despite the quaint and wonder-filled acoustic melodies of these songs, they all maintain a very genuine, authentic and emotive quality to them in the lyrics. It’s very apparent that these songs come from the heart, and are the craft of a pure hand. LD
Out In Style - Broken Dreams As a lover of skate punk, the prospect of a new fiery act on the horizon was quite exciting. Unfortunately, I wish that the new album ‘Broken Dreams’ from Out In Style was a more titillating experience. The whole album stuck to the, “Good but not great” mantra. I thought that overall, fourteen tracks was an impressive undertaking for a relatively new band (birthed in 2016). The energy and overall vibe of this album was great, and I think the reason why it fell short for me was that it was conventional. That being said, as the album wound down and I got towards the end of the album I felt that the tracks got a bit better. ‘Drinking in Hell’, and ‘The Great Perhaps’ were probably the highlights for me and also the last two tracks! So in particular, these two stood on their own the most in my opinion — feeling their own way from the rest of them. This is a good album, but there was nothing that happened that pricked my interest or made my ears go, ‘”This is freaking awesome.” This album shows great promise, and with more growth and maturation there is real potential for some fiery and punchy tunes out of Out In Style. LD
Revaira - In Between This eleven track full length makes quite the impression on the genre by hitting hard and never backing down. ‘Anima’ opens with a, quite honestly, surprising intro. Although short, it hit some earthly notes and then dropped right into a slamming verse before carrying those same notes into the chorus. Throughout the album, I soon realised that Revaira have a knack for carrying little pangs of earthly hues throughout the tracks in extremely well timed spots in order to create balance. ‘Aporia’ summed up the nature of these guys very well for me, with a tense and wintery intro before settling into airy vocals that contrast with a tidal wave of screams. I found that the entire album carried unique intros, and good progressions through building and drawing away. Underneath the layers of a well rounded vocalist and ear catching intros were subtle notes of sci-fi and methodical ups and downs similar to those of a wave on an ocean. Each track promises the energy pertinent to a good live set, which I certainly would hope that these guys live up to with such a killer debut LP. Despite being early in their career as a band, (birthed in 2016) I think these guys have the potential to go far. LD
Manes - Slow Motion Death Sequence I found this whole album to be quite honestly, disturbing. However, I say that in only the best way. These guys have found a way to flawlessly embark on a journey of electronic influenced cosmic and colossal metal that gives you the heebie-jeebies and goosebumps in only, like I said, the best way. I was honestly not quite sure what to expect when it came down to this mix but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it worked very well. ‘Endetidstegn’ took the opening spot in this album, and brought an eclectic mix of triumphs and sorrows with space sounds and rich riffs. ‘Chemical Heritage’ definitely took the cake over the bridge as a prime example of exactly how skilled this act is at blending the two vastly different worlds into one. The vocals and drum lines spoke to metal, and the outer worldly tones laid over the top of those took the layering to another level. These guys have absolutely nailed the otherworldly, atmospheric vibe and although it is a different taste, it won’t leave you disappointed that you tried it! LD
Chandrian Kill - Bring Out Your Dead British two piece Chandrian Kill are making their debut on the metal scene with their upcoming EP ‘Bring Out Your Dead’. The EP brings a melodic metal vibe that touches on notes of djent. Nic Whitmore and Ted Clark make up Chandrian Kill with Nic on vocals and Ted on drums. The project is the brain child of two well known names in the British metal scene and was officially conceived in March of this year when they started creating the EP. ‘I Collide’ kicks off the EP with a hard hitting message about the inevitable nature of conflict in life from the moment we are born to the moment we leave the earth. I think this message is one that exudes a deeper finding than maybe one would expect, however I have a feeling that these guys are all about finding deeper thoughts to life. It certainly doesn’t seem like they plan on stopping anytime soon. ‘Filter Off’ works with a lower and slower feel that feels out some of the darker and more mahogany undertones to the project. ‘Remain Alive’ seems to be a bit more uplifting, a tremendous track. I really like the triumphant and victorious (although not overdone or exaggerated) energy that came into play here. It captured me simply for the fact that it was so easily able to trap what the universe has to give inside of one track. Although this EP is exactly what I would expect to come out of two seasoned musicians in the genre, I still find that these three tracks portray three different complexities of emotions and their consequences which (no matter how seasoned a musician) is a hard task to accomplish. Long story short, this EP is definitely one to watch out for those of you that are looking for a taste of melodic, emotive, metal. LD
This Is Sh*t - / This is Sh*t describes themselves as a “radical, technological, rock-electro music group.” Unfortunately with their latest release ‘/,’ I didn’t feel like I got any of those things except the dance music. The five track EP that was released in June was promising to me with such a steep description from these guys but I felt like this release fell short of what it could have been. Each track did its job of fitting into the box of a techno-rock-electro song, but as far as radical goes, it didn’t provide anything drastically wild or changing which is what “radical” would imply to me. I’m not sure what I was expecting to find, but I was hoping for tracks that roused some sort of emotion in me. The kicker for me here is that I think these tracks are simply, OK. They are not bad by any means at all, and I most definitely don’t hate them. However, I don’t love them. Music should arouse emotion or feeling in some regard (or at least to me it should) and I wished that these guys had just a tiny bit more “Oomph” to get there. That being said, although it was not my cup of tea that does not mean it won’t be a techno-lovers dream! I think these guys are good, but this record did not hit the mark of great. LD
Ben Howard - Noonday Dream Ben Howard returns four years after his last album ‘I Forget Where We Were’. The new album ‘Noonday Dream’ is a concept all of Ben’s own making. It was recorded in both England and France and shows just how much further he has progressed as a songwriter since the last album. The album takes a little while to get going, as it’s got quite a few slow building tracks it’s a coin flip at times on whether it will pay off in the end or not. Listening through the album the one main problem I had with it was that a few of the tracks could have benefited from being cut down by a minute or two, some more so than others. A good example of this would be ‘Someone In The Doorway’. As it builds it self up you’re waiting for the big finish but it never really comes, it just carries on plodding along until it finishes with a whimper, not a bang. The same goes for ‘A Boat To An Island On The Wall’ it’s 7 minutes plus and the first four and a half of these are a very slow build. At least with this one you get a solid sound with some very nice sounding guitar work coming in. Whether it’s the kind of ending you will enjoy depends on your own interpretation. The standout moment on the album comes towards the end with 'There's Your Man', again after a slow build into the song it brings itself to life with an up-tempo almost funky kind of beat to it, before it gives way to Ben’s vocals which combine with the beat and sound in an amazing way. This is the kind of song I had been hoping there was a lot more of on the album, and I’m glad it finally made an appearance. To some up this album it’s like marmite, you’re either really going to love all the ambient sounds and instrumental work it has or it’s really going to drive you mad as you wait through the more lengthy songs to give you the ending you’re hoping for. LS
Gorillaz - The Now Now Damon Albarn is back once again with his animated creation Gorillaz. ‘The Now Now’ is their sixth album and the follow up to 2017 album ‘Humanz’. It’s another Gorillaz album that relies on guest collaborations with people like Gorge Benson and Snoop Dogg. However, there isn’t actually as much collaboration as there has been on the last two albums ‘Humanz’ and ‘Plastic Beach’. With the new album, of course comes the next phase of the Gorillaz story, given us the entire weird and wonderful goings on within the world of the animated members 2D, Russel, Noodle and Murdoc. At times this can be hard to keep track of it as it seems to spread across a lot of different platforms including the albums themselves. We start off with the first single from the album ‘Humility’ which has a nice funky beat to it and Albarn vocals sound as smooth as ever. It’s a strong opening and I recommend watching the video for this one just for the Jack Black cameo. Sadly though, this is as good as the album gets. Besides ‘Hollywood’ ft Snoop Dogg which again has a nice beat to it and catchy vocals as it tells you about the trials and tribulations of trying to make a name for yourself in Hollywood. ‘One Percent’ shows Damon Albarn at close to his best, where rather than sing the lyrics to you, it’s more like he’s having a full-on convocation. A trick which he did very well with his main band Blur. I found this album very hard to get any kind of feel for despite multiple playthroughs. I’ve felt this with the last few albums that the focus always seems to be on the collaborations they have on the album rather than hearing how good the music itself actually is. If ‘The Fall’ Album and ‘Humanz’ had a child this would be the outcome. I feel like there’s room for more on this album, something big and loud and maybe even over the top. For right now Gorillaz seem to be right between one extreme or the other. So, maybe it’s not the Gorillaz album we wanted, but it’s the album Gorillaz needed. LS
Snow Patrol - Wildness Snow Patrol are a band that have been around the music scene for a very long time, however in recent times they seem to of gone of the radar almost completely. Many reasons were given for their time away, at the top of the list being writer's block as well as the lead singer Gary Lightbody admitting that they threw away a full albums worth of material. However, now Snow Patrol have finally returned with a brand new album entitled ‘Wildness’. I’m sure the band and their fans are all a little nervous for different reasons with this new album. Have snow patrol come back with a solid offering or will this album be a shortlived return? Let’s find out. ‘Life On Earth’ opens the album and right away you can tell how strong of an opener this is. It builds its self very well and is very much in the band’s wheelhouse. I can see this one being sung at venues all over the world. The way the instrumentation combined with the powerful lyrics works so well and it gives a powerhouse of an opening to the album. The album continues to move along nicely with the band still being able to showcase that they are once again a force to be reckoned with. As it goes into the second half the band really do begin to come into their own with its relaxed feel. ‘What if This is All The Love You Ever Get?’ has meaningful lyrics, and it combines with the piano to fit hand in hand as you can really feel the emotion that Gary Lightbody puts into every single word he sings. It never becomes too overly emotional and yet will still leave you thinking hard about what you just heard. It’s very well put together for a ballad number. ‘A Youth Written In Fire’ sees the band experiment with a more electronic sound as Lightbody talks about memories of a lost relationship. It’s an emotional rollercoaster but a great one. ‘Wild Horses’ brings back that up-tempo feeling that ‘Life On Earth’ opened with and is a nice way to lead into the final track ‘Life and Death’. It’s certainly a slow building kind of a track with some very good sounding harmonies throughout. Midway through you can feel the track is building and building, it’s not so much a big musical finish but a more an intense and emotional one. For a comeback record this album this is pretty good! Sure all the tracks didn’t grab me as “Amazing!” but as a statement of intent they made ‘Wildness’ work for them and that’s what counts. Snow Patrol are back and it will be interesting to see what they do next. LS
SHOUT - People Of The Night SHOUT opens up with ‘Scream! Shout!’ and immediately, it becomes very apparent that this is an old time-y rock n’roll album meant for twisting, shouting, and letting it all out. ‘Shoot First’ rolls in with the same upbeat tempo, and gnarly grind that could only be described as “party rock.” Although most of the album does keep this sound up through the whole thing, I don’t think it works to their disadvantage here. ‘Racing With the Devil’ keeps to some shred-y notes and a hard hitting chorus. Here, although there is not a ton of diversity I think the consistent party rock tunes is actually what makes this album. It is through and through meant for the people of the night and people of loud, proud, and unapologetic rock. I think a song that completely was not along these lines thrown in would have altered the tone the album gave off in a bad way. These guys did a great job with their party rock n roll theme and I think it fits perfectly into that vibe. LD
Fangclub - True Love Alternative grunge outfit Fangclub out of Dublin Ireland are back with a brand new EP called ‘True Love’ hot on the heels of their self-titled first album. The band really is as close as we might get to a second coming of grunge. The opening track ‘Knife’ starts on a strong sound and it instantly reminded me of Nirvana. However with this it’s got a much heavier tone to it. Steven King on vocals sounds really strong and displays a wide range from sharp and clean to a more deep dirty sound with a bit of punk thrown in for good measure. It’s a really well thought-out song. The Lyrics of the song are clear, it talks about using someone and then being used by that same person. ‘Heart Is A Landmine’ is very catchy and will get stuck in your head for a while when it’s finished with you. he vocals on this one made me think of Trent Reznor but with a melodic tone to it. The lyrics once again reference a lost lover from years gone by. ‘Smother’ feels a lot more punk rock in its sound and yet the band is able to bring a more up to date feel to it. The guitar work has its own grove sound, which only adds to the track overall. They have managed to take something already well established and put their own Fangclub twist on it. ‘Sweater Forever’ is the 1990s Grunge sound in its purest form, it really reminded me of the Smashing Pumpkins and even early Weezer to a lesser extent, mainly due to the vocal work of Steven King. The bass dominates musically but it only adds to the grunge vibe with something very simple sound wise. On the final track ‘High’ the guys have everything here working in perfect sync, the drums give you that upbeat feeling while you just hear the guitar and vocals working so well together. They leave on a high all of their own. Fangclub have really worked hard on this EP and what an EP it is. It’s only 16 minutes long and it’s just everything I wanted to hear and more. The upbeat feeling mixed with the reflectiveness of some of the tracks, and the mix of grunge and punk worked unbelievably well. Fangclub are a band to keep your eye on over the next few years for sure. LS
Neutral Bombs - Pretend To Fly Swiss punk rockers Neutral Bombs release a new album full of numerous subject matter as diverse “clandestine love”, LGBT rights in shirt bursts of energetic fuzz laden riffs. ‘Still Shout’ opens the album with an anthemic style punch, straight to the point and suitably brash lyrics before the minute and a half ‘No Attitude’ has been and gone and already we’re into the meat of the record. One song that makes the album is ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ which was present on 2015’s ‘Another Culture Dies’, the influence of bands such as Anti-Flag and Bad religion is clear and pays tribute well enough without sounding overly memorable. It is catchy but it doesn’t pack enough originality to really make it stand out. This is pretty much the story of the album; the songs are okay but there is far better to explore out there on record. On the live stage, I suspect this is where these songs will come to life. There is an undoubted energy with these songs that I don’t think has been captured on record, songs like ‘Fights’ and ‘Exit’ definitely have character while the stand out track ‘Ship Of Fools’ is packed with hooks and great melodies. Taken as a whole, the album misses the mark which is a shame because there does seem to be big possibilities. AN
Whiteriver - Warmth German ambient melodic hardcore outfit Whiteriver return with a brand new album ‘Warmth’. It’s been a rather testing time for the band as they have gone through a lot of line up changes in recent months but now their line up seems to be solid and it’s given the band a new lease of life. ‘Warmth’ displays an ambient side of the band’s sound with the opening track ‘Vesna’. It’s a slow build kind of a track, like the calm before the storm so to speak! ‘Brittle Glass’ has got some real punch to it with some nice distorted guitar work, and a hard hitting side to it that comes from the drumming work of Christian Süper. The lead singer Anatoli Kalyuk also tears into the track with his screaming vocals. The band keep up this aggressive style with the next track ‘Lato’. Again there’s some nice guitar work here that leads it and mixes well with the bass line. Anatoli’s vocals are less aggressive here which I personally think work better for him. This is a very short song but it does what it needs to do to keep things moving. The tempo is upped for ‘Fall’ with fast paced drums leading the way. The guitar work helps add to its forcefulness as the vocals cut in with a raw and powerful approach. Half way through there’s a distinct change in tone and timing as it brings in the more ambient side to the their sound. It works nicely. This track is clever in the way that the band use both sides of their sound to great effect. ‘Hiver’ picks right up where ‘Fall’ left off. It continues to use the ambient soundscape whilst building up as the vocals come in once again full of emotion. There is a clear progression with their sound on this one combining a few different things musically and making them work in their own unique style. The hardcore side of the band is back with a bang on ‘Guided by Tides’ as they give it a punch with their sound, making good use of the distorted guitar approach. Also the vocals once again work well. The catchy distorted guitar sound keeps coming with ‘Wasted’ and the drums have a lot of aggression, just like the vocals! It’s another track on the heavier end of their sound, and I’m quite surprised it wasn’t picked as one of the lead singles from the album.
‘For Life’ continues where ‘Wasted’ ended, there’s nothing stand out about it but it just keeps the album moving along nicely. On ‘Warmth’ the band make a return to the ambient side of their music and it helps to break things up a little before they shift back into a heavier style with ‘On Par’. We move to the penultimate song ‘Source’ where the band give it that stomping sound with a clear and defined mix between the band members. It just helps add to the overall powerfulness of the track. The band makes another catchy high tempo moment here. They get it spot on. The final output ‘Royal Blood’ is a nod back to every other track on the album as it takes elements from them all and puts them on display. It’s all here, the catchy guitar riffs, the powerful aggressive drums, the brutal emotional vocals. It signs the album off well. As a new band ‘Warmth’ already shows that they have an awful lot of talent as both musicians and songwriters. They are able to combine a lot of different music styles amazingly well. If you’re into melodic hardcore, then this album will be right up your street. However, even If you’re not, you should still give it a listen as it will appeal to a wide range of music fans. LS
Fair Do’s - Leopards These guys promised me a tasteful mix of skate punk and hardcore, which I was pleasantly surprised to find worked very well and was done tremendously. The Fair Do’s have gotten catchy intros and melodic riffs down to a science, and have simultaneously mastered the upswing and fast paced nature of skate punk and combined the two genres into one wholesome and complete album. ‘Royal Flush’ sets the tone for the rest of the album with quite a spark and earcatching intro and a transition into the track with the usage of drums with an impressively good sense of timing (this timing seems to stay very consistent throughout the whole album which is something I greatly admire). Despite the fact that these guys are still relatively fresh on the scene, they seem to have quite a lot of technical knowledge of their respective parts (if anything is lacking here I would say that the vocals could use a bit of work on toning and limbering up) which will become even more important as they progress in their career as a band. ‘Closing In’ has a riff that is slightly reminiscent of older pop punk tracks (in a good way). As you progress through the entire album I found that the tracks begin more skate punk-y and then end more towards the hardcore end of the spectrum. I think this is quite a smart move. It makes the tracks accessible to different audiences and showcases their true range of abilities. The album finishes with ‘Carried Away’ which in my opinion is the strongest track vocals-wise. It’s a great one to end with as it’s groove and riff heavy, and offers a very memorable tone. Overall, I felt like this one was the most “hardcore” out of all the ten tracks, which may be why I’m partial to ending on this note (as an avid hardcore lover). However I still feel that regardless of your preference, the album will start, or end, or both, on a good note. These guys show a lot of promise! This isn’t the last we’ll see of Fair Do’s and I’m excited to see what the future brings them. LD
Real Friends - Composure Over the years it certainly seems like Real Friends has gone from one of the most underrated bands in pop punk to one of the leading acts in their genre. Recently the band has come out with their third album ‘Composure’, which is a fantastic followup to their smash hit album ‘The Home Inside My Head’. It’s no surprise that fans have been wanting another record by this awesome band since late 2017 and words cant express how great this album really is. In fact, this may be even better than ‘The Home Inside My Head’! Often you know when a band is comfortable in their own skin when they are able to grow without giving up the things that make them so authentic and unique from the rest. This is especially true for ‘Composure’. Not only is the production values on this album top notch, the lyrical and overall energy from the rest of the band throughout each track from start to finish is something other pop punk bands looking to get exposure should take notes from. This album completely captures the charm of ‘The Home Inside My Head’ with its melodic math infused guitar hooks combined with power chords that gives them the edge. Lambton’s vocals are some of the best the genre has to offer at the moment with lyricism that is both pricelessly self aware and bitter peppered on with optimistic ambition for happier things to come for the future. There are times where an album feels and sounds like an instant hit that will be talked about years after it’s been released and this is one of those albums. It’s impossibly hard not to get into this album as it combines the very best of melodic guitar with punchy riffs and percussion elements that can be felt in your heart. Songs like ‘Composure’, ‘Get By’, ‘Me First’, and ‘Stand Steady’ will instantly have fans pressing repeat. Overall, Real Friends have proven that they still have the stellar writing ability and know-how to stay noticed. ‘Composure’ clearly speaks volumes to the amount of talent that this band possesses. Hopefully this kind of energy and sound will continue to grow for years to come, with tons of fans screaming and singing along with them. SA
The Flatliners - Mass Candescence The EP begins with ‘The Arousal of Repair’ where vocally it seems somewhat unconventional for the band, as there are little to no screams. The chorus is not up to par compared to the rest of the EP and lyrically it is monotonous. Though it has some solid guitar riffs throughout, sadly the repetitive lyrics and production value are what makes it fall behind the other two songs and puts us in a questionable place heading into the rest of the release. However, ‘Moves Too Quickly’ seems to give us faith that there will be something to look forward to for the rest of the EP as the instrumental elements in this far surpass what we are exposed to with ‘The Arousal of Repair’. Cresswell delivers some passion vocally, making this their strongest song on the EP. Lyrically it is the most original and emotionally driven track on the album, and it is worth listening to more than once. ‘Wide Eyes’, feels instrumentally like a good ending to this EP. It is also hard not to bring up Cresswell’s obvious genuine vocal ability as it really blends well with the instrumental choices that run throughout it. It is is so well put together lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally and it remains strong enough to keep listeners interested. Overall, this is a solid EP that delivers a lot of promise for this band, As it stands this band is very talented and they deserve a spot for being one of the more interesting, original, and listen worthy bands in the pop/punk genre. They are one to keep a watch out for in the near future. SA
Ryders Creed - Self-Titled The album is comprised of heavy rock and metal energy that stays stationary and uniformed from start to finish. It’s a record that is candy coated with intensity and volume to give listeners ears a good awakening. From the get go, the opening guitar sequence in ‘Headspace’ shows us that this isn’t a band that is interested in showing bells and whistles, instead they have an impressive bold and loud sound instrumentally and they clearly want us to stay wide awake for the thundering and punchy musical ride that follows. ‘Promise’ still contains the same consistent head banging energy that was introduced to us in the very beginning. Though not as broad and outspoken, it still has a guitar solo that pulls you in and really shows just how talented this band is. ‘On The Road’ sort of takes the energy level down a peg, but still shows some balance with Gilbert’s heavy percussion. It’s pretty easy to see that the instrumentation of guitarist Myles Cooper, Lee Spencer, and drummer Lee Gilbert in this album meshes well and is one of the unique highlights.
While there are a few duds like ‘Ryder’ for example (it sounds a little bit repetitive!) it shouldn't deter listeners from giving the album a listen. It is honestly just a minor jab at what is already a very impressive record overall. This seems to be a great start for this fresh new band. SA
State Champs - Living Proof State Champs have long been one of the few modern pop punk bands worth giving your attention to, and their new album ‘Living Proof’ is possibly the strongest case so far as to why they are top of the modern pop punk pile. Opening track ‘Criminal’ leaps out of the blocks with a huge blast of positive energy and is the first of many tracks to showcase that Derek DiScanio seriously knows his way around a chorus. It's a song that feels like past kings of pop punk, Sum 41 and New Found Glory at their very best. So if you have any affinity to the genre, it'll quickly worm its way into your head and stay there for days if not weeks. The opening to ‘Frozen’ features some clever wordplay (who says pop punk can't have great lyrics too?) while single ‘Dead and Gone’ once again ticks all the boxes and is destined to be sung back to the band by very large crowds at venues on both sides of the Atlantic. Like all good pop punk bands of the past twenty years, State Champs know their way around a softer number as well as being able to bring the party, and they'll melt some hearts with ‘Our Time To Go’, the best pop punk ballad you'll hear all year. ‘Lightning’ has some wonderful little touches, from the solo bass rumbles in the track's mid-section to its huge chorus and keeps the album's momentum going nicely after the brief slowdown of ‘Our Time To Go’. The second half of the album has lots to enjoy too; ‘Something About You’ is a feel good number while one of ‘Living Proof's’ other featured singles, ‘Mine Is Gold’, may well grow into one of their most well known anthems. Blink-182's Mark Hoppus stops in for a guest appearance on the more sombre ‘Time Machine’, before the album concludes with ‘Sidelines’, a track with more than a touch of a "Young and the Hopeless" era Good Charlotte feel to it. It's not the strongest way they could have finished the album, but like the vast majority of what has come before it, it's enjoyable and certainly worth one's attention. Overall, ‘Living Proof’ is another big step forwards for State Champs as they solidify themselves as a pop punk act for this generation and beyond. If you like pop punk or anything of the sort, this album is a must listen. JG
The Barcode Bandits - I Don’t Want You to Know A drastic change from 2016’s semi acoustic ‘Shut Your Mouth’ EP, The Barcode Bandits latest release ‘I Don’t Want You to Know’ definitely packs more of a punch then its predecessor. There is a source of electrical energy that flows through each song. From its good use of distortion and amazing lead guitar sequences Barcode Bandits is showing that they have approached this new material with clear heads and open minds. They are truly trying to catch your attention in an exciting way. The production values sound akin to one being at a live performance with full bodied guitar riffs and deep percussive elements that will surely make you feel like you are watching them perform. Each track feels as if the band is within fingertips of your reach. Words can’t even begin to describe how unique the sound is, as it is something that needs to be heard in person to get a grasp of the kinds of auditory sounds they are trying to go for. It is an album that just breathes colourful energy. The band is trying to make music that really speaks to the souls and auditory senses of their fans and to other audiences, and they are looking for some kind of response back as each song really does musically elicit a different sort of feedback. Overall, this new material really embraces the raw musical soul and live music goer in all of us while still keeping the music lyrically and performances on show interesting as no track sounds quite like the last. ‘Rest of the World’ and ‘I Don’t Want You to Know’ are sure to become favourites because of the HUGE vocals and instrumental presence felt within them. To be honest, you can’t listen to any of these songs without feeling them, and in that respect it makes it an album worthy of your time. SA
Halestorm - Vicious Halestorm's return has been eagerly awaited. A little more than three years have passed since ‘Into The Wild Life’, so has the new record ‘Vicious’ been worth the considerable wait? The album gets off to a flier with ‘Black Vultures’, the second single to surface from ‘Vicious’. Lzzy Hale sounds at her confident best across the track, particularly when she cuts loose on the chorus, and both Lzzy and Joe Hottinger have some nice guitar licks throughout. The verses on ‘Skulls’ see Lzzy enter some new territory, with a rapid fire vocal delivery that's quite unlike anything in the Halestorm back catalogue. Halestorm's rhythm section also gets a good work out in the second half of the track with Josh Smith going about things in his usual effective, understated way and Arejay Hale making his presence felt fully for the first time on the album. The album goes from strength-to-strength with lead single ‘Uncomfortable’, which is one of the heaviest tracks in Halestorm's repetoire, the lead riff reverborating your head where it is likely to stay lodged for several days after. The speed is dialled down and the sass is ramped way up for ‘Do Not Disturb’, a funk filled number about how much fun you can have in the bedroom, which is complete with a face melting solo which suddenly turns the heat right back up. Next track ‘Conflicted’ doesn't quite manage to leave the same positive impression, but the lull is brief as the following ‘Killing Ourselves To Live’ is one of the highlights of the album. With Lzzy's vocals soaring, particularly in the bridge, and some hugely impressive instrumentation in the second half of the track, that is one that could easily become a highlight of upcoming Halestorm live shows. The last third of the album takes a slight dip compared to what has come before it, but there is still plenty of quality! Particularly in the shape of ‘White Dress’ which is another vocal masterclass from Lzzy Hale. The title track ‘Vicious' has an almost electronic feel to it in places, which puts it slightly at odds with the rest of the album, but the song is rescued by a catchy chorus and at only three minutes long doesn't outstay its welcome. Closing things off, ‘The Silence’ once again puts Lzzy's vocals centre stage, with only an acoustic guitar for company. If you wanted one Halestorm song across their entire career so far to demonstrate just what a brilliant singer Lzzy Hale is, it's this one! The vocals are off the scale and it is an amazing way to close what is a very good album. They haven't quite hit the heights of ‘The Strange Case Of...’, but Halestorm can be very pleased indeed with their efforts on ‘Vicious’. JG
Mayday Parade - Sunnyland Mayday Parade are a self described rock/emo/indie band which personally I feel is a mix that works particularly well. The first thing that I come across is a very melancholic overtone to the entire album. Melodically it follows very specific chord progressions giving it an almost hopeless feeling to it to which you can really hear and feel the emotion between each track. I really fell in love with 'Take My Breath Away' as it really conveys the life experiences within the band and the struggles that they've been through, which you can't help but connect with. ‘Sunnyland’ is full of heartbreak and misery but for some reason amongst the hopelessness it really brings you up, and I feel that's what Mayday Parade have always been good at doing, taking bad situations and turning them into anthems that you can sing your heart out to. I normally avoid albums like this, however I have really enjoyed listening through this one with its catchy choruses and songs that like I said, you can connect to. Mix wise, it sounds really good! my only criticism would be that sometimes the guitars are really low in the mix and not cutting as much as I'd have liked, but that may be just down to the style. Vocally however it is completely spot on. Overall, I'd recommend this release for sure. TR
Ghost - Prequelle Ghost are one of the most recognisable bands in the world right now. We’ve seen four different incarnations of Papa Emeritus come and go and now we have Cardinal Copia at the helm steering the nameless ghouls. It has been a steady rise over the previous three albums, the mystery may have gone with the 2017 lawsuit against the band’s leader, (I won’t say his name here, it’s still real to me damn it!) but the intrigue and growth is still there in abundance and it looks set to continue to grow with ‘Prequelle’. The first single ‘Rats’ was an inspired choice to start the ‘Prequelle’ cycle, grooving drums opening then bursting into life, catchy and full of swagger. It didn’t take long to find its way into the mainstream. ‘Faith’ opens with some nice guitar harmonies before a chugging riff that carries the song along, at its conclusion an organ and a choir of voices take over with the first of the over lapping song of the album that only becomes clear with the albums closer ‘Life Eternal’. Lyrically the album is dark, but it does have its moments of light, it is well balanced, “Every day that you feed me with hate, I grow stronger” an example of the negative being turned into a positive. Now, ‘Miasma’. An instrumental track, melodic, with great harmonies, ear catching bass, plenty of synth and, to really show some balls, how about a saxophone solo? The last thing I expected to hear and more to the point, the last thing I thought would work, but work it does, and it sounds like the most natural thing in the world. It gives the song lift off and it shows how things can work so well if you give them a try. If there was a ballad on the album, I suppose ‘Dance Macabre’ would be it. There is, to my ear at least a feel of ‘Bat Out Of Hell II’ - Meat Loaf on this one, which is not a bad thing. ‘Bat Out Of Hell II’ is a phenomenal album and this is a great track. The addition of string sections is great, it gives it a real big show feel. With the imagery and sounds this could be a west end show, it makes the Royal Albert Hall show one not to miss in such a surrounding as that iconic venue. As ‘Life Eternal’ fades away you get the sense that this is a BIG album. If you look at the growth of bands such as Metallica, Iron Maiden and the likes, they grew incrementally and organically album to album, Ghost seem to be following this pattern. They have the image, they have the sound, they have the fan base. Ghost are going to be one of the biggest bands in the world very soon. AN
Sideshow Cinema - Palace Sideshow Cinema is a post hardcore metal band from Washington DC that has gathered some attention from their last EP in 2016 ‘Needless to Say’. It seemed like there was a lot of promise from this little trio. Now the band has returned with their album ‘Palace’! Not only is this totally off the beaten path for the band in terms of sound, but it is also a deep record that is riddled with what seems to be purposeful highly irregular guitar riffs. All the way down to its percussive elements that run throughout. The art work alone is actually a huge concept change to its predecessor, seemingly trying to speak volumes of a grim story most of us try to avoid, but none the less have to deal with. We can feel a sense of sadness and loss through the first half hour of the album, which seems to have plagued the person in question for quite some time. There’s a sense of letting go of the past but to no avail. With uniquely woven acrobatic guitar riffs and wild percussion elements it really develops the chaotic soundscape of the album and fits with each track lyrically. The title track ‘Palace’ is without a doubt a stand out listen, and a perfect place to start for any listener. The heavy message lyrically in this album WILL grab you. SA
Tremonti - A Dying Machine Tremonti have really hit a new scale with this fourth album, also it’s the first time Mark Tremonti tackles a concept release. The concept is an interesting and engaging one, at the turn of the 22nd century humanity has developed the ability to create human organs and make the vessels to carry them in any form they choose, inside and out and the inevitable problems as humanity proceeds to predictably, mess it up and cause trouble when they lose control. Opener ‘Bringer of War’ is a massive song to start the album, huge riffs and catchy melodies abound as the album grabs you straight going into ‘From The Sky’. Mark Tremonti has been there and done it with Creed and Alter Bridge, so much so that I think it is forgotten sometimes just how great a guitar player he is, some of the work here is among his best. The title track is a rager yet, it has the ability to pull back and let melody take over in the breakdowns before crashing back into full throttle. Lyrically it is engrossing, it will take a few listens to take it all in with the talk of synthetics and chemicals, but it is delivered superbly. It is going to be interesting to take the story on fully when the book is released, the feeling I get is that this album is just part of the bigger picture with ‘A Dying Machine’, there is a lot to take in and it will become clearer with the novel. The album is fast and furious with poignant moments littered throughout, it is an album that is among the best he has been involved with, certainly the most ambitious and it could just be the start. There is room for further expansion and in other mediums. This could just be Tremonti’s finest hour. AN
The Pariah - Silent Birds (single) ‘Silent Birds’ is the first new material from what could be the next album. When asked about what inspired this new song front man Henning had the following to say. “When I was writing the new lyrics I was thinking about our behaviour towards others. Why do we think like everything’s great when we know this is a lie and everyone else is doing the exact same thing. The thought finally lead me to question the concept of truth in general, the truth was a leitmotif for all the lyrics” ‘Silent Birds’ as a song has a fast-paced aggressive approach with some nice sounding guitar hooks, and drums that drive this song at a frantic pace. Add to that the great sounding aggressive vocal work from Henning as you can really feel the emotions coming from him every time he sings. The song moves from fast to slow and then back into fast again seamlessly, and the use of gang vocals on the chorus really adds something to the track. The song is just over 3 minutes long but it goes so quick that before you realise it the song is over and you have to listen to it over again which (for this song!) is never a bad thing in my opinion. If this is any indication of what might be to come on the their next album then it’s going to be a huge step in the right direction. It will be great to watch them as they will surely continue to grow and develop in a brilliant way. LS
Crossfaith – Ex Machina This album’s concept is set in an alternative near future in which a ruling class of people, maintain their world through artificial intelligence and other technology, which dehumanises people as explored in the opening title track and scene setter, ‘Deus Ex Machina’. It is a tense and alarming start which perfectly paves the way for the first full-length track and single ‘Catastrophe’ which is massive, dynamic and all-consuming, something which the band have mastered. Previously released single track ‘The Perfect Nightmare’ is frantic, with a big chorus and effective gang vocals, again hitting hard and making for a memorable number. ‘Destroy’ sees the first collaboration with Ho99o9 and it is crushing! With stand out clean vocal sections and a guest spot that is executed brilliantly it becomes an explosive mix. To follow is ‘Freedom’ which features Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari, again helping to offer up a different sound and vibe. They make good use of the guest appearance as it flows well and is cleverly constructed, making for a diverse and stomping song.
The band deviate further from their sound and the concept even with ‘Milestone’, as the song is about the band itself and their ethos and features a very fitting lyric, which sums up their sound perfectly, “We’re always on the edge.” Relating to the fact that they like to be on the edge of genres and blend them together, with elements of rock, metal, electronica and more present, as it is throughout this album. The song is invigorating and hopeful with some great prominent riffs. Closing song ‘Faint’ sees another guest in the form of Masato from Japanese metalcore band Coldrain and is actually a Linkin Park cover, which is an interesting and unexpected way to end the album. This is a worthy cover and they do a good job. It’s a powerful way to end this striking album. They have always been known for their big sound and unique concoction of metal and electronica, along with other influences and this album demonstrates their ambitions and exploration even further, they blur the line more than ever but the end result is a well-crafted, diverse and massive album that should appeal to many.
Review by Mike O’Cull, independent music journalist. www.mikeocull.com Looking to get your ass kicked? Well, Sweet Blood is here all the way from South Florida to do exactly that. Together since 2014, Sweet Blood is an American hard rock band with a huge and aggressive sound, amazing vocals, and lyrics about war, fear, religion, substances, and free thought. The band’s debut release, ‘Initiation’, is a full-bore blast of the kind of rock music that moves stadiums full of people. It blends Trump-era rage with the sort of physically-fulfilling heavy grooves that made us all rock fans in the first place. The sound recalls giants like Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Pantera, and The Doors but maintains its own distinct identity. Sweet Blood is Salustiano Rodriguez on lead vocals, Kris Gainer on rhythm guitar, Jason Dean Moshen on lead guitar and vocals, Paul McBride on bass, and Mark Ellis on drums. As a unit, these guys hit hard and get listeners’ full attention. Even better, they can keep that attention with well-written songs that deliver the rock, hooks, and space in proportions that make them instantly memorable. ‘Dance’, from ‘Initiation’, is a great example of the Sweet Blood sound in action. Every single note is loaded with kinetic energy and, when the groove hits, the group swings like one big fist. The intricate vocal harmonies float like incantations above the fray and add just enough ear candy to kill. ‘Acid Ritual’ is another heavy hitter that opens this set but there are highlights all the way through. Take a spin through deep cuts ‘Suicide Doors’ and ‘WWIII’ to hear for yourself. Sweet Blood is still a band on the way up but the road ahead looks pretty good. The group has an identifiable sound that blends present-day rock aggression with the best parts of old-school alternative metal. If you are looking for something real that rocks, buy this record today. ‘INITIATION’ OUT NOW on Araya Records Photo by: Brandon Epling
Urne - The Mountain Of Gold Coming from the embers of groove metal kings, Hang The Bastard comes, Urne who roar into life with their first EP ‘The Mountain of Gold’. It is a ferocious introduction to the band, which features former Hang The Bastard men Joe Nally & Angus Neyra with the addition of Richard Wiltshire to the drum stool. Opener ‘Dust Atlas’ packs a punch with big flowing riffs and no shortage of melody. ‘The Lady and The Devil’ brings with it some great hooks that streak their way through the grooving riffs, the vocals bring with them a more dynamic approach than the opener. The title track has more of a sludge feel and is hitting hard with a real ferocity in the vocals and the closing ‘The March Towards The Sun’ again brings new vocal and instrumental elements that show Urne won’t be pinned down to one style with each track having its own unique stamp crushed all over it. A bruising debut release that shows the depth the band have at their disposal, let the association with Hang the Bastard be what draws you in and then forget about it because Urne are here. AN
DevilDriver - Outlaws 'til the End, Vol.1 About as ambitious, ballsy and different as it gets, Devildriver move firmly out of the comfort zone of heavy metal and tread a path never before trod. An album of outlaw country songs not just covered but picked apart and rebuilt in DevilDriver’s image, sure there have been cover albums before but thus one is truly unique and stands alone. I can remember hearing this album talked about a long time back and as a fan of a lot of the artists covered on this album I was very excited about it, I knew it had the potential to be good. Maybe not quite this good though! The album was a labour of love, not only for front-man Dez Fafara, but all involved (and there are some big names involved), it shines through on each track. Straight from the opening salvo of ‘Country Heroes’, there is a vibe that burns through this album. The supporting cast for this one is a who’s who of both genres. On the heavy metal side, we have the likes of Randy and Mark from Lamb of God, Wednesday 13, Lee Ving and Burton C. Bell. From the outlaw country side, Hank III and John Carter Cash, the son of the man in black himself, Johnny Cash. I’ve been a big Johnny Cash fan for more years than I care to remember and ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ was one of the reasons for that, this is one of the big album stand outs. Heavy and unmistakeably DevilDriver but they still keep the atmosphere of the original and the ending sends the chills up the spine, a simply stunning effort. What they do with ‘Copperhead Road’ is just as impressive, featuring 36 Crazyfists man Brock Lindow, it has the feel of country and the guitars do a great job carrying the melody of the original. One other that I feel needs a mention is ‘The Ride’, originally performed by David Allan Coe, some may recognise the name from his collaboration with CFH for a band called Rebel Meets Rebel, another album that shows what can happen when these genres collide. If you enjoy this album then do yourself a favour and use it as a starting point for exploring some of the country genre, it won’t be up every metal heads street, but you may surprise yourself. As for this album, it is a crushing tribute to outlaw country music. Dez Fafara, take a bow brother for what you and all those involved have accomplished. It was a gutsy move, one that pays off, huge. AN
Chelsea Grin - Eternal Nightmare Deathcore heavy weights Chelsea Grin have returned with another album, 'Eternal Nightmare' the follow up from 2016's 'Self Inflicted' and I'll tell you one thing, they are back with a vengeance. They open with the song 'Dead Rose' which I can only describe as a kick in the teeth in the best possible way. The thing that I feel that removes them from the standard deathcore routine is their incredible use of leads. The way that they layer their songs with extra melodies. A good example is the chorus in 'The Wolf' as it just makes their sound stand miles above anyone else in the deathcore scene. The only thing that puts me off of this album a little, (and it's not something that can't be overlooked) is the unneeded use of electronic drum samples in various parts throughout the album. In my opinion it just overshadows the clear talent on display. Album highlights for me are '9:30am' for the intense lead work and 'Eternal Nightmare' for the melodic overtones used within that song. Overall itâ€™s an incredible album that I will be spinning for a long time to come. TR
Bury Tomorrow - Black Flame Bury Tomorrow have always been a band that I've known about, but never really taken the time to take a proper listen to. They've certainly been making waves recently and their new album 'Black Flame' sees them doing more of the same. The album starts as you'd expect any metalcore album to start, intense, aggressive and really giving you a glimpse to what the rest of the album will have to offer. Not only do they bring the heavy but melodic vocals, very reminiscent of Killswitch Engage, they really take the centre stage just as much as the harsher vocals showcased. The title track 'Black Flame' really adds another dimension with different effects and lead parts adding even more melody. I can best describe it as old school Parkway Drive, which is in no way a bad thing. The intro to 'Knife Of Gold' is a personal favourite moment of the album for myself. Overall itâ€™s a really solid album that I'd happily recommend to anyone who loves a good mix of Parkway Drive, Killswitch Engage and just metalcore in general. TR
Consecration - Remembrance From the get go Consecration establishes a clear emphasis on amazingly hardhitting bass and drums. Throughout the rest of the compilation slow and engaging guitar riffs create and add to an already dark and melancholic vibe instrumentally. Vocally there are huge unclean influences of death metal growls with surges of screams interwoven from track to track that stem from the muses of black metal. Interestingly enough, there are also clean vocals that appear in certain tracks of the album that show depth and vocal range throughout. Surprisingly the combination of these unclean and clean vocals work really well with the guitar solos and leads. As a result this compliments these dark and heavy elements encompassed in the compilation album. As if that wasn't enough to get one interested and excited for this album, fans and non-fans will appreciate their extensive, astronomically unique non-vocal music tracks. Not only does this provide a good pallet cleanser on a lengthy yet magnetic album, but it shows their diverse talent as a whole. Unreleased tracks are less polished compared to the rest of the record, but present a rawer resonance that is both personal and inviting. It showcases the way the music was intended to be heard in its original state without what you sometimes hear on a produced track. Overall, Consecration is a band that dives into, and brings to life a unique realm of heavy music. This album delivers an extension of what it means to be death metal and takes it further. For that it deserves praise. SA
DRK BLU - What It Is What can be better for a hardcore punk fan than a band with members of Rotting Out and Have Heart. Well here’s DRK BLU, since his release from prison Walter Delgado is reborn in the first track ‘Apology’. The lyrics completely contradict the title “First things first, I'm not sorry for a goddamn thing” a powerful smash mouth sound leading into ‘Grit’ a half minute explosion of gritty bass lines and angry drum beats, Delgado’s comeback continues “I’ll be the one to outlive you.” ‘Alright’ is electric with its crazy riff, it brings back so many Rotting Out vibes – perhaps previewing new material after their comeback in February? ‘Pigment’ deals with a past of racism with a passionate chorus, it tells a great story of ignoring this behaviour and becoming something bigger “Always told I was a coloured kid. A waste of life, A f*cking spic, another one who won't amount to sh*t, so I smiled and did the opposite.” ‘Hurts to Love’ is the most impressive track on the record with its beasty riff and the typically great paced vocals of Delgado – the track is full of thunderous riffs and is wellorchestrated. The closer ‘Ghost’ is short, sharp and punchy, the repetitive “These Streets Kill” remind me of Ceremony (’Ronhert Park’ era) and tells the story of the streets where the band grew up and the pressures of modern life – an important message to finish an intriguing yet lightning quick record – I hope to hear more from DRK BLU but we cannot help but anticipate a new Rotting Out record in the near future. JP
Hunger Strike – Betrayal South Wales has been home to some of the best hardcore bands in the UK with the likes of Wardogs, Ill Communication, Brutality Will Prevail. Step forward Hunger Strike with ‘Betrayal’ a four-track release. The ‘Intro’ takes you into the deep depths of hardcore with a heart beat drum beat and a stirring riff which you’d hear on a Weekend Nachos album. We kick into life with the heavy ‘Betrayal’ fitting for the title, the chorus is super catchy with Madball vibes – very much a personal track “No longer part of your family. Nothing but a distant memory” you really feel the pain in Josh’s vocals. ‘Forced Out’ is a much more up tempo track – it’s good to hear the different paces on just a four track record, the cymbal does get drowned out towards the end of the track but that’s only because of a potent riff. After a quick Google search I couldn’t find the clever sample to open final track ‘Blind’ which is slick with a killer bass line, and again the riffs throughout show their potential. The lyrics get a little lost but you just have to love what’s going on at 01:57. It’s a four track release with promise. JP
Plasticsoul - Therapy I quite enjoyed this album. The album opens with their quietest track, ‘My Heavy Soul’. The winter acoustic track brings a delicate, earthly note to the melancholy lyrical content and tense emotion. Despite the fact that this is really the only track on this album of this speed and nature, I quite liked it opening with it. The tone of the track suits their vocalist well, and I enjoyed being proved that Plasticsoul is a “can do” band as I went through the motions on the tracklist. The rest of the album for the most part is a punchy, and rowdy take on indie rock with jazzy and smooth rolling rhythm. ‘All Died Pretty’ shows off the vocals on this album, which I quickly came to be a big fan of. The vocal style incorporates a gruff, rough and tumble element with mahogany richness and melody which I think you’d be crazy not to love. ‘The King of Hash’ was a comical, and well timed track to break up the album with a little chuckle and a clever tune. Overall, I think the entire album was quite unique and reminisced vaguely (note: quite vaguely, but I picked up notes of influences here and there) of Weezer with some of the classic pop of The Beatles. How could anyone say no to that. LD
Coretheband - I (Don’t) Know With two albums under their belts, this third album oozes with confidence and is a indie pop masterpiece from start to finish. From its extremely polished tracks to the crisp burst of energy and aura of summer that seems to linger in its presence, the electro-pop band really seems to have a grasp with the kind of sound they want to have and the lasting impression they wants to leave on their audience. From the beginning of the album we get this infectious endorphin rush of sugary pop rock that gets you high off of its energy. 'Constantly' is one of those tracks that takes a synthesizer and its sparkling guitar riffs and makes it a pop rock song that is worthy of remembering. While there is next to no beat tracking in this song, it works because we have Gale's vocals that seem to cruise over a well written synthesizer backdrop. The next songs presents itself as a more guitar heavy and more of a subtle presence of percussive elements featured in ‘Karpet’. This track is a gem on this record because of its huge use of instruments used. Its use of Jazz style elements guitar wise with a splash of tropical percussive and trumpet styles have the make and feel of a summer anthem. It just radiates off the record. ‘Update’ is by far the best track on this album altogether, and it comes up on you like hot fire. The percussive elements on ‘Let Me Breathe’, are energetic and full of life. The combination of lead and gang vocals is something that worked in a previous track on this album and works wonders on this one as well. Old school jazz auras just flow naturally into the next track ‘All For Sale’, with the production values that give it a stylised authentic flavour. It’s sewn magically together to create a style that hasn’t been experienced on this album. It almost feels Chon-like in its music essence with a 19th century twist. ‘Not That Special’ is sort of where the album doesn’t do anything new. It’s not a terrible track, but it advertises what the album has already done very well up to this point. ‘Born’ is where we come back to changing up the music formula again as it doesn’t feel like any of the other tracks we have heard up to this point. It feels very laid instrumentally using different effects at different points to really showcase the lyricism and the vocals more. While it feels laid back there is a lot of different effects in it, that keep it interesting. ‘Neon Flash’ then keeps this mellow vibe going with guitars in the beginning only to fade out to a synthesizer and vibrating percussion while still keeping the mellow soundscapes the tracks before have created. Coretheband ends this musical journey with ‘Shoes’. Bleeding with clever lyricism, it is a great closing track to end this distinct electro pop experience. SA
Tomorrow’s Eve - Mirror of Creation III The German band Tomorrow’s Eve seems to have gone through the motions of change since they came together years ago, but with the new release of ‘Mirror of Creation III’, this powerhouse of an album seems to want to do a little more than just turn heads. Fans of amazing bands like Dream Theater will come to love this little addition to the first two albums, as this progressive metal band has some great tracks such as ‘Welcome to the Show’ that really showcase the extent of their talent. To a little more obscure tracks such as ‘Somnium Ex Machina’ that really try to push the album’s boundaries into a more goth rock feel. Despite, the album’s different uses of rock influences throughout, It’s a great release that tends to keep all its vigorous energy in balance, without making it feel like an awkward listening experience. There are a great deal of songs on the album that use different types of orchestral and synth elements that really make these songs worthy of listening to, as they take these instruments to strengthen and add a bit more punch to their tracks. It all goes to show how talented the band really is, as they take these very different and energetic mixes and create something that is exciting and dynamic in its presence. The band puts forth some interesting and rich musical compositions that can keep a progressive melodic metal fan invested in its musical experience, but they will still have a hard time differentiating their sound from so many others despite them being in the metal music game for quite some time. We live in a time where the internet and technology are very powerful tools, new music is being generated within this genre specifically every single day. HOWEVER, that being said, there is no doubt that after listening to this release the band will go on to achieve great things, as they clearly have the talent to do so. SA
Enter Shikari - University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield - July 13th The only way I could count how many times I’ve seen Enter Shikari on my hands is if I was Goro from Mortal Kombat (for the non-nerds he has four arms and I have no self control when it comes to Shikari). When they announced an intimate show at the Hatfield Forum I jumped at the chance and it’s probably the best time I’ve seen them. We’ll get to that soon though, let’s discuss Boston Manor. It’s safe to say the Blackpool lads live up to the hype that’s currently erupting around them, their style of British pop punk just stands out even with a rowdy/hardcore crowd in front of them tonight at the Forum. As soon as the boys take to the stage the crowd surges like it’s been electrocuted much to the pleasure of lead singer Henry. Their singles ‘Drowned in Gold’ and ‘Lead Feet’ were the real crowd movers and you could tell the whole band were loving life. They even threw in a cheeky new song for good measure which went down very well! One final circle pit and this band were free to leave the stage knowing the warm up had definitely been accomplished. Enter Shikari know how to work an audience and what to do even when things don’t go to plan. It all starts off like a dream, kicking off with ‘The Sights’ and straight into the mammoth track ‘Juggernaut’ the show seems to be going off without a hitch. “Evening carbon based life forms” lead singer Rou says as he addresses the sweaty crowd. The newer tracks went down a storm, ‘Undercover Agents’ had everyone in the place “Howling with the wolves” and the slower track ‘Shinrin Yoku’ got much more of an aggressive response than I ever could have imagined. It was amazing to see how far these guys have come. It’s always going to go down well when the band play tracks from their debut album ‘Take to the Skies’ and when fan favourites ‘Anything Can Happen in the Next Half Hour’ and ‘Mothership’ came out to play so did the crowd. Pits opened up everywhere and the band looked shocked at what they were witnessing. Then something unexpected happened... Rou jumped to the front of the stage and shouted “Cut it!” Sparky their 5th touring member (the computer) had died. Next came five minutes of vamping including Rou singing “Sparky’s on fire, your defence is terrified”, discussing the world cup, Rob’s amazing magic trick and then the solution to fixing a technical problem like this. Switching it off and on again. Or as they call it a “Power Cycle.” “Just pretend like the last 5 minutes didn’t happen and we’re at the end of Mothership’” The band asked a patient audience. This transition to their Faithless cover of ‘Insomnia’ was amazing and would have worked even more spectacularly without the fault but they handled it like professionals. It shows they’re still just four normal guys. It also set up the next song ‘Destabilise’ perfectly ‘”Is this set destabilised enough after that?” Flawless. This band are anything but predictable, after they’ve finished ‘Rabble Rouser’ lead singer Rou decided to grab his guitar and go for a walk through the crowd. The things he must have seen! He decided to take a perch at the top of the balcony and give an incredible rendition of ‘Airfield’ complete with confetti for the finale. It was a beautiful moment looking around and seeing colours of blue and white combined with phone lights and people passionately singing their hearts out. Enter Shikair know how to put on a good show. “I don’t think you’re ready for the quickfire round” Rou says to the crowd once he’s back on stage, the response is a cry of protest. “I’m thinking of your health” he says before explaining how this is four songs in eight minutes. Classic ‘Sorry You’re Not a Winner’, ‘SSSnakepit’, ‘System/Meltdown’ and ‘Jester’ later and the crowd looks dead on their feet. Luckily it’s the encore. ‘Redshift’ leads the encore and ‘Live Outside’ finishes it off with streamers erupting from the front of the stage and covering the entire crowd. How these guys always manage to go above and beyond my expectations is beyond me. Even with the technical difficulties they put on one of the best shows on the planet. Bring on their upcoming tour in January and February. RO
After a huge Download Festival special issue, then it would be rude to not give you our highlights from this iconic event. Setting car alarms off, and waking everyone up with a bang, Boston Manor take on one of the biggest slots ever on the main stage at Donnington. This is a special moment for upcoming bands in the UK, and shows that Download is trying to do its best to support upcoming talent, as well as established. Very important. With their pop punk sound the band treat us to tracks like 'Burn You Up', 'Trapped Nerve', 'Laika'. The performance and skill on show from all members was impressive, and judging by the HUGE crowd in front of them, then this is clearly a turning point for this hard working act. For those of you who have followed the rise of Marmozets over the years, then you’ll know just how much they deserve to be on the main stage. Returning to promote their already well received new album 'Knowing What You Know Now' they give us a fierce performance as they mesmerise the crowd with hard hitting anthems such as 'Play', 'Move, Shake, Hide', 'Habits', 'Captivate You', & 'Major System Error'. From the vocals of Rebecca to the technicality from the guitars and drums, the talent that this band shows really is extraordinary! Over on the Zippo Encore Stage, Andrew W.K. brought in a massive crowd to witness his “party hard” hits. From 'She Is Beautiful', ‘Music Is Worth Living For’, ‘We Want Fun’ he created an exciting atmosphere full of fans raising their beer cups high in the sky, and it worked really well against the (for once) nice weather that Download had. With a 90+ second countdown build up (Andrew just does what he wants!) him and his awesome backing band then kicked into the final track ‘Party Hard’, which had everyone singing loud. Andrew is on top form right now, so if you get a chance, then try and catch him live when he visits a town near you! Today provided the worst clash of the weekend for me, Hell Is For Heroes & Bullet For My Valentine! I went for Hell Is For Heroes. Earlier this year they returned in a fine fashion to celebrate the 15th anniversary of their iconic album ‘The Neon Handshake’, and by obviously having too much fun on this tour the band decided to commit to a couple of UK festival dates at Download & 2000 Trees. Although the turn out was a bit disappointing for the second to headline slot on the Zippo Encore Stage (maybe because one of the first BIG bands of the weekend were on the main stage), it was great to see the band not really caring about that and still putting on a killer show. They largely played songs from ‘The Neon Handshake’, along with their cover of ‘Boys Don't Cry’ and a handful of songs from their other two albums. ‘I Can Climb Mountains’ and their lead singer jumping into the crowd were the best parts of the set. Here’s hoping the band decide to stick around and write another album. At the end of their touring cycle for ‘Night People’ and on the verge of a new beginning with their upcoming album ‘VI’ the guys in You Me At Six are headlining the Zippo Encore stage. Josh has become such a great lead singer over the years, and throughout their performance he shows us this by constantly engaging his audience, whilst ensuring he hits every single note. The sound from from the band is absolutely enormous, and it’s no wonder they’ve now become an arena sized band in the UK, as they have crafted an electric style that works so well for that world. They put out an epic setlist including anthems 'Room to Breathe', 'Stay With Me', 'Save It for the Bedroom', 'Loverboy', 'Underdog', 'Bite My Tongue'.
Avenged Sevenfold return to headline Download for the second time, and what a show it is. ‘The Stage’ has everyone surging towards the front straight away, people running past you who haven’t realised the time just yet. It’s a really great opener that has the band showing the powerhouse of musicianship straight away. The anthems continue to pour out with 'Afterlife', 'Hail to the King', 'Buried Alive', with M Shadows at the forefront showing why he is one of the best vocalists in the world right now, surrounded by Zacky Vengeance & Synyster Gates who play ridiculous guitar solos through the night and are basically way cooler than most of us could ever hope to be. For older fans of the band, they play an incredible version of ‘So Far Away’ as a tribute to their fallen member The Rev. As well as this touching tribute, my final stand out part of the set would be ‘Nightmare’, now I know that might seem too obvious to some of you, but it really is just an incredible track, and one that gets absolutely everyone in attendance involved. SO great to see the band headlining Download once more.
If you read issue 48 of Stencil Mag, then you’ll already know that The Temperance Movement have worked tirelessly to be where they are on the main stage today. It’s really, REALLY great to see this though, as their sound is perfect for this slot, and with the talent that the band have then they will undoubtedly please all those watching. I was right. The band go down exceptionally well with their massive mix of iconic hard rock sounds, and ‘Built-In Forgetter’ leaves you blown away. They just NEED to be watched live to truly appreciate. Although I didn’t manage to catch all of their set (there is simply too much to watch and do at a festival like Download!) I wanted to give a quick shout out to Asking Alexandria who looked like they were absolutely killing it with a HUGE crowd on the Zippo Encore Stage. With Danny Worsnop back in the band once more, then it really does look like they have their drive back, as well as their eyes set on world domination. Well it’s pretty clear to see that things are going extremely well for the guys in Black Stone Cherry right now, not only have they just completed an arena tour over here in the UK, but they are now on stage right before Guns and Roses! This is absolutely a career changing moment for them, and it was amazing to witness. Their southern hard rock sound is just fun to watch, and they work so well with the beautiful setting that Download has to offer. We see another great setlist where they provide a fair mix from most of their releases to date. 'Blind Man', 'Me and Mary Jane', 'Blame It on the Boom-Boom’ get the toes tapping the heads bobbing, and in short, there really isn’t a negative that could be said about the performance even if you tried. As the band end on ‘Family Tree’ it’s clear to see that impact they have made over here has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Parkway Drive are another really well placed band on the Download line-up this year, as they easily deserve to headline the Zippo Encore Stage, and being just SO big right now, the bring in the atmosphere by having an enormous audience who continuously crowd surf and push their way to the front to be as submerged in the performance as possible. Ultimately, it was obvious to see that the feedback to one of their most intense lyrically albums yet ‘Reverence’ has been outstanding. It really is no surprise that they’re taking on arenas next year. This is it, the big one, Guns & Roses with the majority of the original line-up on a Saturday night at Download Festival. How awesome is that? For me, I saw Guns & Roses at Reading Festival a handful of years ago, and was a little bit disappointed with just how late the band turned up on stage to start with...but hey, that’s a different festival. Thankfully, the band arrive on time to kick into their three hour set (yeah, you read that right). If you’re a longtime fan of this band, then it really doesn’t get any better than tonight. Every single member is on form, and they are ready to nail every track they play. ‘It’s So Easy’, ‘Chinese Democracy’ (Yeah, the original members did their version of the track), ‘Mr. Brownstone’ were all really fun to watch, and it was great to see the chemistry on stage. 'Welcome to the Jungle' has people singing so loud, and to put it simply, it was surely an iconic Download moment for everyone there. ‘Live and Let Die’ has a fantastic build to it, and is just really hard hitting for the whole song. It was VERY cool to see Axl rose take on ‘Slither’ (Slash & Duff were in Velvet Revolver) and for me showed a proper reunion for the band, as they were actually enjoying playing other material from each other’s projects. We go back to Terminator 2 with ‘You Could Be Mine’, which is one of my favourite Guns & Roses songs, and just absolutely awesome to watch. We are then of course treated to an incredible Slash guitar solo, that shows off his dynamic range in a brilliant way. ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’ was kind of unreal to watch, and it was an another impressive moment where you could see friends and families coming together to scream the lyrics as loud as possible. Special. After this, the band continued to dominate with anthems such as 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' a beautiful cover of 'Black Hole Sun' and then coming back for an EPIC encore that saw them end on 'Paradise City'. The band played over 30 songs, and provided one of the best headline performances I’ve ever seen at Download.
With every album they’ve done something completely different, and by doing so they’ve created a longevity to their career that MANY bands work so hard to try and achieve. Yeah, I’m talking about Thrice! As they take to the Zippo Encore Stage they are here to mainly reflect on their highly successful comeback album ‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere’ and songs like 'Hurricane', 'Black Honey', 'Blood On The Sand' are just amazing to watch. Obviously the band treat us to some older numbers like 'The Artist In The Ambulance', 'Of Dust and Nations' which both show off how committed Thrice are to making dynamic songs with breathtaking depth. ‘The Grey’ gives us an exciting first taste of their next album ‘Palms’, with a melodic riff that promises to get stuck in your brain for years to come, and then the band end on the stomping track 'The Earth Will Shake', which actually harnesses a lot of different “Thrice styles” in one song. A brilliant end, to a satisfying set.
Jamie Lenman is here to demolish the Avalanche stage with his “in your face” sound, and how it’s only just him and drummer Dan Kav in the line-up producing a sound just as big as say Royal Blood is simply incredible to witness. Jamie has come a long, LONG way since the days of Reuben, and songs from his latest album ‘Devolver’ prove that he can have a career just as big (or maybe even bigger) all on his own. 'Hell in a Fast Car', 'Waterloo Teeth' got the mosh pits on the go, and after a well received Reuben over of ‘Every Time a Teenager Listens to Drum & Bass a Rockstar Dies’ Jamie ended on 'Mississippi' which got everyone singing extremely loud. To kind of echo what I said earlier, Jamie has already established an incredible response to his solo material to date, and I feel like ‘Devolver’ is about to start something VERY special going forwards. After Alexisonfire said they were never coming back in 2011/12 they have thankfully decided to return with a handful of shows over the last couple of years. One of these shows is today on the Zippo Encore Stage at Download Festival. The turnout for this band was simply amazing, and from the moment the chorus to ‘Young Cardinals’ kicked in it was plain to see that their fan base was there in full force, and they were ready to commit to the entire set. Anthems like 'We Are the Sound', 'Crisis', 'This Could Be Anywhere in the World' have everyone singing along to the band, as the majority of the members dart across the stage constantly, to keep the crowd interaction at a high whilst creating a frantic and vibrant atmosphere. Ending on 'Accidents' and with what seemed like such a short set, they still managed to drain every ounce of energy out of the crowd, whilst leaving them wanting more. Just like Hell Is For Heroes earlier on in this review, we’d like another album, please. Leading on nicely from that, and after their tour with Hell Is For Heroes earlier on this year, A are here with their new bass player Dougie (from McFly) to share a nostalgic set full of pop/punk classics on the Avalanche stage. They spoil the audience with hits from ‘Hi-Fi Serious’ such as ‘Starbucks’ and of course ‘Nothing’ and just create a really fun live setting that is awesome to be involved with. Also, a shout out to Dougie for running in a circle between the front and back of the stage for nearly a whole song whilst still playing. The band will actually be performing ‘Hi-Fi Serious’ in full later on this year, and if the performance today is anything to go by, then you’re 100% in for a special evening. Shinedown bring in a mammoth crowd on the main stage, and although I didn’t manage to catch all of their set, it was plain to see that these guys could be in the running for headlining Download in the not too distant future. ‘Cut The Cord’ is a BEAST of a track and perfect for the live spectacle that Download is, and songs from ‘Attention Attention’ like ‘Devil’ will be (judging by the reaction) in their set list for a very long time. Watch out for this band folks.
Less Than Jake are here to show that they can fit into any festival line up that they wish! I guess for fans of metal music, who might want to take a little breather from having their ears destroyed, then Less Than Jake are actually the perfect remedy for that. We get a balanced set, with well known songs from most of their releases, but for me I really enjoyed everything they played from ‘Anthem’ on this occasion. In the interview we did with the band at Download in this issue, they discussed how the bouncyness, and fun sounding approach of the songs from that album work so well with the intense lyrical meaning behind it, and I couldn’t agree more. 'The Ghosts of Me and You', 'The Science of Selling Yourself Short', 'Plastic Cup Politics' are perfect at showing just how great these guys are and always will be at writing songs.
Rise Against headline the Zippo Encore Stage, and this is another band from the review that easily has the potential to headline Download Festival at a later date. You could barely find a space to sit down on the grass at it was just so packed out, and rightfully so, as these guys have penned some complete belters. In a similar fashion to Alexisonfire, Tim, Zach, Joe, move around the stage constantly to make sure everyone has their eyes on the stage, and the musicianship that is being played out. They’re tight throughout the whole set with an energy that transmits from the stage to the audience. 'Ready to Fall', 'Help Is on the Way', 'Give It All', 'Savior' have the crowd swaying from side to side (like I said, there’s no room to move!) in amongst the mosh pits that open up so people can actually have a dance (and get some fresh air!). They end on 'Prayer of the Refugee' which is chaotic and awesome in the best way possible. What. A. Band. So, as I heard that The Hives were “One of the best live bands on the planet” , I chose to spend the end of the weekend by watching them headline the Zippo Encore Stage. That statement isn’t wrong. As soon as they kicked in with 'Come On!' mosh pits opened up everywhere, and it was like the atmosphere of a really sweaty small gig was amplified into a huge space. The Hives are known for awesome riffs, and they did just that as they ripped into 'Walk Idiot Walk', a foot stomping track that had everyone shouting the guitar tune being played as well as the catchy lyrics being performed with ease by Pelle. One of their biggest songs ever ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’ had even more circle pits open, and crowd surfers heading for the stage. This track works SO well live, and it really was fantastic to see it that way. By this point the majority of the band were sweating buckets (just like the audience) but it looked like they were enjoying every single second up there (which is what you want right?). At one point, they just stopped mid song and stood like statues for a good five minutes, how they weren’t scared of someone chucking a pint of who knows what at them is a sign that they are just that confident in their live performance, and the respect of the people that watch them. With 'Tick Tick Boom' they got the whole crowd to sit down, and then jump when it kicks in. It’s always great when bands do this, as simple a request it might be, it goes a long way to reaching out to every single person watching. As well as treating the crowd to some new material (which sounds brilliant) the band end the set on 'Return The Favour' which takes the remaining energy from both the band and crowd in an awesome way. If you haven’t seen this band live, then PLEASE add them to your list. You won’t be disappointed. An outstanding finish to another great year at Download! AD
Currently on the road promoting 'Watching The World Come Undone', Birmingham locals Templeton Pek provide a really exciting start to the day. Their fusion of rock & punk is absolutely awesome to watch, and how they are not on later in the day is beyond me. For a band that has shared the stage with titans such as Rise Against, they were well aware of how to keep the crowd interaction at a high, whilst cruising through as many songs as they could at the same time. These guys have worked hard for years & years, and if they keep working this way, then I believe that this gradual climb will reward them well in the not too distant future. Taking to the stage with their unique take on alternative punk, Can’t Swim instantly go down as an act to watch out for as we head towards 2019. With the HUGE crowd they bring in for this time of day, it’s clear to see that their debut album was a success. Highlights for me include 'In Between', 'God Awful' & 'Your Clothes'. Save Ferris haven’t toured in the UK for a VERY long time, so before they even took to the stage there was a sizeable crowd waiting to see the return of these skatastic legends. With the outstanding singing from Monique, backed by a brass section that was on form throughout, then it was no surprise that the response from the audience was as brilliant as it was. The band provided a brilliant set for their fans, as they shared the hits from all of their releases to date. To ensure everyone in the whole crowd was paying attention they ended on their well known cover of ‘Come On Eileen’. The audience were left in awe, most probably hoping that they’ll be returning to the UK a lot sooner on the next run. The last year or so has been insane for Creeper. Not only has their debut album ‘Eternity, in Your Arms’ had a massive response all over the world, but they’ve actually built an extremely loyal fan base at the same time, known to some as the “Creeper Cult”. What I’m trying to say is they’ve made an entrance that feels more like they’re going to be around for a long time, then just an overnight success. As they launch onto the Jagermeister stage (ridiculously big stage), they have the audience in the palm of their hands from the first chord. They’re singing back to every word, and the vibe is just great to be a part of. My two stand out parts of this set are as follows ‘Crickets’ because of the outstanding vocals on display from Hannah Greenwood, and of course ‘Misery’, as it already sounds like an anthem that we’ll be hearing in rock clubs for many years to come. I’ve been fortunate enough to see Four Year Strong perform in many smaller venues over the years, so seeing them take on the mammoth arena sized Jagermeister stage was kind of unreal, although at the same time they certainly deserved a slot like this. Something I like to talk about with pop punk bands is how they go about keeping the crowd interaction at a high when they go from a smaller stage to a larger stage, and the barrier is a bit further out. This didn’t seem like a problem for the band today, they managed to get everyone involved, whilst looking like they were having the time of their lives themselves. They didn’t miss a beat with songs like ‘Go Down In History’, ‘What the Hell Is a Gigawatt?’, ‘Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)’. Simply put, these guys are just always great to watch live. If you are familiar with the ska/punk scene in the UK then you will already know just how iconic and important Capdown are. Sadly these days they only perform at the odd festival, so I had to ensure that they were not to be missed before they went into hiding once more. The set felt like a celebration of what they had achieved over the years, and tracks like ‘Cousin Cleotis’ & ‘Ska Wars’ were just really exciting to watch. With mohawks and “skanking” in full swing for every song performed, it looked like they had done their job nicely.
Comeback Kid are probably the heaviest band I catch today, and just like a lot of the bands I’d already seen at Slam Dunk, these guys have also gradually built up a dedicated fan base in the UK over the last decade. With a massive audience in front of them, they play through killer songs such as 'Surrender Control' and of course 'Wake the Dead'. Although I did find this stage just way WAY too loud (I know, I’m getting old) that at times it became hard to hear the awesome guitar playing on display, it was a cool set overall. Every time I see Lower Than Atlantis live they are climbing a little bit higher on the line-up, and by making waves in the UK rock scene, they are now here at Slam Dunk, three slots away from headlining the Monster Stage (other main stage to Jagermeister). Sure they have the “hits” under their belt, but when you watch them live it’s pretty obvious to see why they have become SO well known. 'Had Enough', 'Work For It', 'Get Over It', 'English Kids in America' are all welcomed with open arms by the audience, who happily shout the lyrics back, and then when you combine that with their lead singer Mike Duece who ensures that everyone is involved throughout the entire performance, then of course it’s going to be a show to remember. Lower Than Atlantis have achieved so much through their career, but judging by their show tonight, it really feels like they’re on the verge of something much bigger. So here we are, at the saddest point of the festival today, yup, it’s Taking Back Sunday playing without one of their founding members Eddie Reyes. Although this is a huge hit, the band put everything they can into their set to to make sure everyone knows that there is still a positive future ahead for this iconic emo rock band. The band display a well balanced set, and although Adam is slightly struggling on vocals tonight (probably from performing at Slam Dunk for the whole weekend!) he doesn’t need to worry too much as they manage to have all those in attendance singing as loud as they can. 'You Know How I Do', 'You Can't Look Back', 'What's It Feel Like to Be a Ghost?', 'Cute Without the 'E' (Cut from the Team)', 'MakeDamnSure' all unsurprisingly get an insane response, whilst showing just how good Taking Back Sunday have always been at creating songs that you can really sing your heart out to. For me, I could put Jimmy Eat World on shuffle and just enjoy every track that they’ve ever done. Each album is so solid, and so different, and they just can’t do any wrong. They changed the rock world that we know for the better, and they 100% deserve to be headlining the Monster stage. The band play close to 20 songs, and it’s an incredible set list. Songs like ‘Bleed America’, ‘A Praise Chorus’, ‘Futures’, ‘Pain’, ‘Get Right’, ‘23’, ‘Work’ show just how ridiculously talented this band are. Interestingly, one of the stand out moments for me was ‘Pass the Baby’, taken from ‘Integrity Blues’ it’s arguably one of their heaviest songs to date, and by being that, it adds this beautiful dynamic to the set that we’ve never seen before from the band, as by the end you’ve simply seen them explore most areas of their sound. They end on ‘Sweetness’ & ‘The Middle’ to provide the perfect high energy end to an exceptional day. Slam Dunk has done it again. We want more. AD
Starting the festival (for me!) is none other than Ben Marwood. After huge demand from those attending the festival, and for playing the event nearly every year since it started out, then he is rightfully on the main stage. With his stunning approach to playing acoustic, he puts on a brilliant set, and provides a great start to the weekend. 'Bury Me in the Pantheon', 'Murder She Wrote' are really cool to watch, and I hope that after today Ben will continue to play slots of this size. Press To Meco are having a fantastic year after signing to Marshall Records as they released their highly anticipated new album ‘Here’s To The Fatigue’. These guys are all such naturally good musicians, and the music really does flow right out of them with such ease as they perform. The best part for me was actually the title track from their latest album ‘Here’s To The Fatigue’ as it has you shouting the words back at the band while banging your head along to the outstanding riffs that it has. For those that might of missed it, 2000 Trees Festival has changed over the last couple of years from a mainly British bands only festival to actually supporting as many awesome acts from all over the world as they can. The first promising act in line with that statement comes in the form of Brutus. I heard that they supported Thrice, so this alone was enough to make me part of their crowd at 2000 Trees. With their awesome rock/heavy drum sound they are not like any other band at the festival in an exciting way. Their lead singer Stefanie actually plays the drums at the same time, which is indeed something very rare in the music industry at the moment. Performing songs from their album 'Burst' in a fantastic way, this a without a doubt a unique band that are ideal for the live setting. It goes without saying that from the moment Black Peaks released ‘Statues’ their lives as a band got turned upside down. They got to tour the world and even share the stage with bands as big as System of A Down and Deftones. Why did they get this recognition so quickly some might say? Well, that’s simple, they write humongous songs that are just perfect for the live setting. The Cave Stage is perfect for many upcoming bands, as it’s a tent venue which is ideal for catching the vocals of the audience, whilst creating a chaotic environment full of mosh pits and crowd surfers. So yeah, Black Peaks had all of that and then some. 'Drones', 'Glass Built Castles' were both my favourites performed from ‘Statues’ and then to my surprise they played quite a handful of tracks from their upcoming album 'All That Divides', and if they’re anything to go by, then the band do not need to worry about the direction of their career. I must admit, I am not too familiar with Turnstile, but I have certainly heard a lot of good things about them. So that’s why festivals are perfect right? You can go check out the bands that you have only heard a little bit about, and hopefully discover something great. That’s exactly what happened. This band’s approach to hardcore is very fresh, and obviously catchy, and as it was in The Cave I could barely hear the vocals at times due to the volume of the crowd. ‘Time & Space’ has officially been added to my “must listen to” list! In a similar vein to Black Peaks the guys in Arcane Roots also had an insane start to their career by supporting bands at big as Muse and Biffy Clyro. Continuing to promote their awesome latest output 'Melancholia Hymns' they are here to share their tasty melodic riffs and contagious songs with us as they take to the main stage. Songs like 'Off the Floor', 'Triptych', 'Landslide' show why they are in this slot, whilst also proving that they do indeed have the potential to play even higher up on the bill in the future. They really do sound immense live in an organic way. So here comes what everyone has been waiting for at the end of day one, At The Drive-In! After finally deciding to re-form in 2015 they’ve unleashed a new album ‘In•ter a•li•a’ (their first album since 2000!) whilst touring the world to showcase everything they’ve done to date. With only a handful of UK dates done over the last couple of years, the turnout was of course overwhelming. With a great balance between ‘Relationship of Command’ and 'in•ter a•li•a' we are hit with beautiful melodic sounds on the guitar front as well as harsh and yet meaningful singing from Cedric Bixler-Zavala. The best parts for me were 'Invalid Litter Dept.', and ‘One Armed Scissor’ as they both had such an incredible energy to them, with the crowd singing along in unison. At The Drive-In were really perfect for this type of crowd, and I’m more than certain that they influenced a stack of bands on the line-up over the weekend. A great end to the first day on the main stage. SO it didn’t actually end here, as after this the forest sessions (one of the best festival stages in the UK right now!) carried on until the early hours. First up we had Dave McPherson who acoustically took us through a stack of InMe tracks like ‘Faster The Chase’ and ‘Firefly’ alongside covers as interesting as 'Boom! Shake The Room'. Following this was the acoustic trio Thrill Collins who ended the night by playing superb covers of 90s songs and other classics to a rather large crowd on the Forest Sessions Stage. The best bit was when they played ‘Time of my Life’ and everyone tried to crowd surf like they were doing the iconic dance from Dirty Dancing. Nice!
To recover from staying up so late to watch Dave McPherson and Thrill Collins the night before, we decided that we would have a chilled start to the day by heading back to the forest sessions. First up is Holiday Oscar. I actually caught this guy live supporting Myles Kennedy recently, so it was indeed a pleasant surprise. With his somewhat gentle and at times humoured approach to acoustic music (and politics!) he provided a great warm up to the rest of the acts following him. Fatherson were up next on the Forest Sessions Stage, and what a set it was. The vocals from Ross Leighton echoed throughout the trees and he created a perfect setting for this brilliant stage. As I’m unfamiliar with Fatherson his acoustic take on 'Always' and 'Just Past the Point of Breaking' left me really intrigued to hear more by the band. So the saddest part of the whole weekend is here. The tribute to the legendary Scott Huthinson from Frightened Rabbit. Originally they were supposed to play at the festival, but sadly due to the untimely passing of Scott this couldn’t happen. To acknowledge his impact on the music world, 2000 Trees put together this special set which saw acts like George Gadd and Ross Leighton take on their favourite Frightened Rabbit songs whilst discussing their chosen tracks in more depth. At this point, there was a huge crowd at the Forest Sessions Stage, and you could really feel the sadness all around you. To add to this, it even started raining for the first time over the weekend, and overall it was just the most suitable celebration there could have been at the festival. We saw him demolish the Avalanche Stage at Download Festival, but now it was time for something a little bit different, that’s right, it’s Jamie Lenman on the Forest Sessions Stage. We saw him last time he took on this stage back in 2016, and since then it’s plain to see that he has become more well known than ever before as his solo work continues to bring in new listeners. We are treated to ‘Body Popping’, ‘Devolver’, as well as a cover of ‘Freddy Kreuger’ by Reuben (there’s a campsite called camp Reuben here. So it worked well!), and ‘It Must Be Love’ by Labi Siffre. Jamie has a very cool voice, and for the entire set he had the attention of the majority of the crowd. A true frontman. We head on over to the main stage to watch And So I Watch You From Afar from right in front of the sound desk (probably the best place to watch any band!). I’ve only ever seen this act in tiny sweaty venues, so it was really great to see them take on a space of this size, as in my mind they really do deserve it. From the moment they kick in, there’s mosh pits and flying inflatable bananas in transit. I’m not sure if it was because of where we were standing, but yeah, the sound was pretty incredible for ASIWYFA for the whole of the set. ‘Gang’, ‘Wasps’, and of course ‘Big Thinks Do Remarkable’ were all very powerful to watch with guitar work so in sync and well rehearsed that it sounded like one big wall of awesomely layered sound. I have no doubt that after their atmospheric performance today that the band will continue to at least play to crowds of this size. They are easily one of the best instrumental rock bands in the UK right now. After a really hard start to the year with the lead singer Mikey Chapman parting ways with the band, Mallory Knox kept going with Sam Douglas taking on the vocal responsibility. Releasing a new song entitled ‘Black Holes’ they showed that there was still a big future for the band which brings us to today, one of only a handful of festival tour dates the band have done this year whilst they plan the next chapter. Any worries that fans had about the energy or the way the were vocals were going to work without Mikey were gone when the they roared through their set with well known songs such as ‘Lighthouse’, ‘Shout at the Moon’ as well as that new one I mentioned earlier ‘Black Holes’. Sam has got the vocals covered, and the band still put on the professional show that they have become known for. With the crowd jumping and singing along to every song you could see that that response was being captured by the band themselves. It seemed as if they were just so happy to have such a great welcome by the Trees crowd, and everything just clicked in to make for one of the best sets of the weekend. It was visually a turning point for them, and hopefully the push/support that they needed to take them forward. Headlining the Friday night is none other than Twin Atlantic! Sure, they took this spot two years ago, but that performance was so damn good that they rightfully deserve to be back in it again! ‘Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator’ provides an intense opener to the set, and as soon as they play it you can see people/fans running from all sides of the field to try and get in closer to see the main act. Cruising through the set we are exposed to more awesome songs from their latest output ‘GLA’ such as ‘Whispers’ and ‘No Sleep’. At this point, you could already see that there was a giant crowd forming, with people jumping along to everything the band played. ‘Free’ was an anthem to hear in a live format, and all around you you could see people singing along loudly, and embracing the fantastic environment that this headline act were creating. Twin Atlantic have built up such a diverse set list over the years, and tonight that was on display in full force, Drastically different, but just as well known as ‘Free’ the band end on another mega anthem ‘Heart and Soul’! An incredible show that will undoubtedly secure them a slot back at 2000 Trees if the stars line up again.
Okay, so we are starting the day at the acoustic stage (Forest Sessions) once more. Why? Well, it’s just super chilled out, and a great way to discover awesome talent in its purest form. First up we have The Xcerts! These guys are obviously having a great year with the huge response to ‘Hold On To Your Heart’, and for me this is very rewarding to see. This band have worked SO hard over the last decade to be where they are today, and it’s great to finally see them breaking through to the masses. Murray performs a lot of older songs for this particular set, going straight into the classic 'Slackerpop', which is a really awesome place to start for any new fan of the band actually. 'Kids on Drugs', 'Carnival Time', and 'There Is Only You' all have the relaxed crowd singing along as loud as they can (everyone is pretty worn out by this point!) but the highlight has to be ‘Aberdeen 1987' as Murray exits the stage and walks right into the middle of the crowd with his guitar to just sing the song at max level (it was basically like a 360 U2 concert experience…), which was a really organic way of getting everyone involved with the set.
PD Liddle is up, and if the crowd wasn’t chilled out enough, he was there to take the Forest Sessions to that next level. His dreamy take on folk was really refreshing to watch, and it was fantastic to hear some of the songs taken from his brand new album 'Casual Labour' (which had only just come out!). The perfect act for the Forest Sessions, and something very new that a lot of people in attendance will surely be looking to find out more about after today’s set. If you’re like me, and you went to gigs in the early 00s, then you’ll know that Hundred Reasons were kind of a big deal back then! Trying to hide their true identity, they played under the guise of Undead Raisins, but yeah, sorry guys, we all knew it was going to be Hundred Reasons playing old anthems from the decade gone by! They walk on and jump straight into an acoustic version of ‘Chop Suey’ (yeah, you read that right, and yes it did happen), which I think was a fine way to say “Hey, we’re here! Listen up!”. Then we are taken on a roller coaster ride of Hundred Reasons songs, and not necessarily the ones you’d be expecting. Of course we get ‘If I Could’, ‘Falter’, ‘Silver’ but what I really loved about this slot was hearing acoustic versions of the more “recent” tracks. ‘No Pretending’, ‘The Perfect Gift’, ‘Kill Your Own’, ‘No Way Back’ all sounded REALLY cool, and it kind of felt like the band had maybe brought a bit of fresh air to them when rehearsing for Trees. I was left wanting to hear more from this acoustic version of Hundred Reasons, whilst feeling eager to go back to re-listen to some of the more lesser known tracks by the band even more. So whilst Hundred Reasons were playing, Enter Shikari fans were flooding in from all directions, because yes, that’s right Rou Reynolds was going to be playing a handful of songs in this beautiful setting. Absolutely not to be missed. Although he suffered a couple of sound problems, he went through a diverse set of acoustic versions of Enter Shikari songs alongside two unexpected and delightful covers of ‘Cars’ & ‘Heroes’. All of the Enter Shikari songs had a massive reaction, but for me ‘Stalemate’, ‘Redshift’ & ‘Undercover Agents’ were the highlights. Leaving the Forest Sessions we head over to the main stage to ironically catch the end of The Xcerts set! It worked well, as it just so happened that they were closing on now one of their biggest songs to date ‘Feels Like Falling In Love’. Which had Murray come back out at the end to just sing the chorus over again with the crowd by himself. Outstanding.
Basement are next up on the main stage as they share their interesting flavour of alternative rock with the crowd (who are now three days into watching a million awesome bands live!). Songs like ‘Fading’ ‘Early Grey’, Brother’s Keeper’ and obviously ‘Promise Everything’ get spectators going wild, and they barely give them any time to breathe as they just speed through the tracks. Andrew sings each song with an aggressive ease, whilst the melodic approach from the band in the background is completely on top form today. Somehow it’s already been two years since the release of their last album ‘Promise Everything’ so if these guys come back with a new release in a year or so, then I have no doubt that after this performance they’ll be even further up on the line-up!
Skinny Lister have been pretty much touring non-stop since the release of their exceptional album ‘The Devil The Heart & the Fight’, because well, this band is just meant for the live circuit! I’ve been fortunate enough to see them a handful of times over the years, and they never disappoint. Today is no different. For example with every gig they do, they bring on a flagon of beer (well, we think that’s what they have in there?) and hand it out to the crowd to drink as soon as they take to the stage. Which of course instantly builds a connection with the audience! ‘Trouble on Oxford Street’, ‘This Is War’, ‘Rollin Over’ all work so well in The Cave stage, and where I was just outside of the tent, you could really hear every single fan single along to the songs. As well as huge singalong anthems like ‘Beat It From the Chest’ the band cemented their awesome set by ending on ‘Six Whiskies’, where they brought out their good friend Jay McAllister from Beans on Toast. With this act now working on a new album, and a live show already stacked with singalong classics, then the future is indeed looking very VERY exciting. So I did a small write-up in our Download Festival review about Hell Is For Heroes, but this is the review I really want our readers to take notice of. Back in the early 00s this band changed the alternative rock world in the UK. Hits like ‘I Can Climb Mountains’, ‘Night Vision’, ‘You Drove Me To It’ are all absolute must hear songs, taken from the now iconic album ‘The Neon Handshake’, and thankfully 15 years later they have come to celebrate how important this record is. At 2000 Trees they decided to play it straight through, and for the entire set the crowd sang along to every word. It was like I said, just a beautiful celebration of how much each track meant to everyone there, and just how ridiculously awesome each song is. The energy emitting from the band was unreal, and at random points in the set their frontman Justin would crowd surf, which showed you just how much this album is actually a part of him still. A fantastic way to end the events on The Cave stage. To end the whole weekend, we head back over to the main stage, where Enter Shikari bounce straight through ‘The Sights’, one of the upbeat songs taken from their awesome new album ‘The Spark’! As the set continues, the band just play hit after hit after hit. ‘Juggernauts’, ‘The Last Garrison’, ‘Mothership’ ‘Destabilise’, ‘Anaesthetist’ these are all songs that made a huge impact as soon as they were released. Enter Shikari are at a beautiful spot in their career where they can just pick the absolute best songs of each album to create the ultimate set-list. There really is just absolutely no filler at any point. Like most Enter Shikari shows, the crowd is as crazy as ever! There are mosh pits everywhere, and the Shikari fan base is out in full force to scream in unison with Rou. The band really have put the work in over the last decade, and it’s just awesome to see them looking back over an incredible career thus far by playing through these ridiculous tracks. The energy from Rob, Rory, Chris is also just as high as ever (it’s been just the four of them since the beginning, no new members, epic!). The band speed towards the end with ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’ (the song which started it all!), ‘Sssnakepit’ ‘...Meltdown’, ‘The Jester’ to then land on ‘Redshift’ & ‘Live Outside’ at the end in a very thrilling way. Enter Shikari have gone over these songs again and again to make sure that they work in the best possible way live over the years, and of course by playing them so much, some of the tracks have even evolved even further. ‘Mothership’ for example had an ‘Insomnia’ remix to it today! Enter Shikari are constantly pushing the bar to that next level, and by doing this they’ll always be playing to bigger and bigger crowds. 2000 Trees rocked. AD
CRNKSHFT, meet the band CRNKSHFT is an explosive band composed of five musicians from Vancouver, Canada. The band is setting the scene ablaze with its explosive, drop tune aggression with melody at its core. Influenced by bands like Alice In Chains, Pantera, Metallica, Nirvana and Godsmack, CRNKSHFT have carved out a sound in the vein of Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, Breaking Benjamin, and Alexisonfire, that gives them a refreshing sound that forges these genres together. Their riffs are designed to get your blood pulsing, their dynamics get your fist pumping, and the melody keeps you singing along. Since the band’s formation in 2015, CRNKSHFT’s engine has been firing on all cylinders with their debut EP ‘Hard F***ing Rock’ released in 2015 plus being tapped as local support for such touring bands as Prong, Grim Reaper, Lordi and The Veer Union. The wrecking crew then unleashed their self-titled EP in August 2017 produced by Darren Grahn (Metallica, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi) which allowed the formation to embark on a Tour that took the 5 members from Vancouver to Montreal. CRNKSHFT’s most recent EP showcases the full spectrum of hard rock, with huge shout outs to the metal and softer side with everything else in between. When it comes to lyrics, vocalist Shane Jolie explains. “CRNKSHFT has a song for every mood and a song for every heavy listener, whether you want to be blitzed with aggression or wallow in some self-doubt, we’ve got your back.” Touring Since 2016, CRNKSHFT has actively toured across Canada. The first experience on the road, was as a support band and the shows were scheduled on the West Coast of Canada. A year after this first touring experience, CRNKSHFT decided to promote their recent EP by performing across the country. The band drove from Vancouver all the way to Montreal (back and forth). Experiencing all the ups and downs of a touring band, from their van breaking down to playing in packed venues. Breakout West Nomination CRNKSHFT has been nominated at the Western Canadian Music Awards as Metal/Hard Music Artist of the Year. In this category, CRNKSHFT is proud to be the only band to represent the province of British Columbia. This nomination is an achievement for the Vancouver band, who is competing against Juno Nominated artist (Canadian Grammy Awards). The single ‘Systematic’ from the band’s Self-Titled EP caught the attention of the juries which got CRNKSHFT their nomination. The Western Canadian Music Awards (WCMAs) are an annual awards event for music in the western portion of Canada. The awards are provided by the Western Canada Music Alliance, which consists of six-member music industry organizations from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, and The Northwest Territories. BreakOut West weekend is a place where the music industry gathers to celebrate, develop, and support the best of Western Canadian Music. INDIE WEEK While on a Canadian Tour during September 2017, CRNKSHFT performed at the famous Bovine Sex Club in Toronto. After playing in front of a packed club, the band sat down with Darryl Hurs, founder of the largest Indie Music Festival in Canada. This is when Darryl insisted on having CRNKSHFT back for Indie Week in November of that same year. After heading back home to Vancouver, to enjoy the comfort of their own places, the members flew to Toronto in November to play 2 shows during the Festival. Now for the 2018 edition of Indie Week, CRNKSHFT will be taking part in a series of showcases which could allow the band to perform at Indie Week UK 2019, which takes place in Manchester. Leading up to Indie Week, CRNKSHFT will be performing on the East Coast. In the most up-to-date news, the song ‘Systematic’ is featured on the Test Drive on Sirius Octane. The channel has pure explicit music content that isn't freely heard on most FM radio rock stations, and its musical focus is active rock artists that are new and emerging along with familiar active rocks artists. This will be the first time that CRNKSHFT will be featured on a US radio platform.
Features interviews from the following: Halestorm, Real Friends, Tremonti, Thrice, Deaf Havana, Anthony Green, Less Than Jake, DevilDriver,...
Published on Jul 31, 2018
Features interviews from the following: Halestorm, Real Friends, Tremonti, Thrice, Deaf Havana, Anthony Green, Less Than Jake, DevilDriver,...