Interview with Danny, Luke, Jez
Can you tell us about the formation of A Few Too Many? Danny and Mike went to school together, forming the band in college after growing watching the likes of Blink182, Good Charlotte and Fall Out Boy on MTV and deciding that music was what they wanted to do with their lives.
So, how did you get to the name A Few Too Many, and what does it mean to you? Danny had been on a night out that involved way too much alcohol and after collapsing in bed after and waking up the next morning thought "I had a few too many last night. Actually that'd be quite a cool band name" and the rest is history.
What's it like to be an upcoming band in Cambridge? Challenging and competitive but exciting. There are a lot of very good bands in the area so you really have to make yourselves stand out from the crowd and the venues that cater to our size of band are always very busy so we have to make sure we take any gig opportunities that come our way as that chance may not come up again. You then have to work around people's personal schedules as well, we all work full-time jobs so it can be difficult at times but we make it work. That said, seeing your local scene slowly start to support you as you get your name out there more is a great feeling and something that really doesn't get old.
How did you find your sound as A Few Too Many? It's taken a few line-up changes but I think we finally have something that we're really happy with. Musically we write what comes naturally to us rather than setting out to write a specific type of song and with the varying influences we have in the band we end up with some songs that are much heavier, some that are more riff-based and technical and ones that are more stripped back and simpler. We'll always be a pop-punk band at heart but having the ability to write so many different types of songs now is extremely fun. No matter what the music sounds like though, lyrically we will always attempt to write catchy, thought-provoking lyrics that are relatable and drawn from our personal experiences.
So, how did you get to the EP title 'Solid Ground', and what does it mean to you? We were throwing around a few names at the time but ‘Solid Ground’ seemed like the most appropriate. We'd just recorded the EP, we had two new members who looked like they were in it for the long run after various line-up changes previously, we had a sound we were happy with and the band was finally on "solid ground" so to speak. It represented where the band was at the time.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Solid Ground'? There's quite a lot going on. It's a very self-conflicted EP, not quite happy, not quite sad but at the time of writing it’s probably an accurate description of where various members of the band were at personally. It touches on relationships, depression, hope and wanting to move forwards with your life. ‘Stay The Night’ is about the reckless abandon of spending that first night with someone that you're really into, ‘Ultimate Glory’ is the feeling of finding something or someone that fulfils you and realising your journey was worth it despite the obstacles in your way. It then moves onto ‘Ghosts’ which is a track that talks about depression and addiction. It offers a snapshot into what goes through someone's mind who is struggling and also the viewpoint of someone having to watch another person go through it. ‘Stuck on Repeat’ is the shortest track on the EP that showcases the frustration of feeling like you're going in circles with your relationship with someone. ‘The Pity Parade’ is a slight curveball to the rest of the EP lyrically. Despite its upbeat, bouncy riff, lyrically it has a more serious undertone about our complete disdain for politicians and politics as a whole in the current climate. It then ends with the title track ‘Solid Ground’ which is about accepting that you're not in a good place now and that you're not okay, but knowing that you can work towards being in a better place in the future. Lyrically it almost reads like a short story - getting into a relationship and feeling great about it before it goes into a downwards spiral due to issues with depression/addiction and then having to pick yourself up from the mess after. Musically there are a lot of influences that really shone through some of the tracks. There's some very Blink182 and Green Day inspired riffs in there and we took inspiration from bands like State Champs, New Found Glory and Seaway as well.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Solid Ground' together for you, and why? ‘The Pity Parade’ solo took a while to find something that really fitted. There were always small bits that we weren't 100% happy with and it was a real challenge for Jez that required him to expand his preferred solo structure and think outside of the box a bit. It took quite a lot of takes and experimentation but he smashed it in the end and we've come out with something we really like.
Who produced 'Solid Ground', and how would you say they helped shape it? It was tracked and engineered by John Metcalfe at Crooks Hall Studio who did an incredible job of guiding and looking after us. He was very patient and helped us get it into a state we were happy with. After this it was passed onto our good friend Arthur Walwin for mixing and mastering. We had some productive discussions about how we wanted it to sound and he gave it a tone and sound we liked a lot.
How did the artwork for 'Solid Ground' come together, and what does it mean to you? Our friend Laurence Crow did all of our artwork. He's a great illustrator/artist and we've always liked his work. We were discussing concepts for the title and we wanted something that was iconic but relatable and that showed the feeling of trying to find "solid ground". We came up with the idea that two giant hands could be controlling and twisting your world like a Rubik's cube until you find the solid ground you're looking for and everything clicks into place and Laurence did a great job of representing that with the design that he produced.
Looking back on your debut 'Lessons Learned', how happy are you with that album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of A Few Too Many? We love some of the songs on there and they're still a lot of fun to perform live but it probably wasn't the best representation of those songs and looking back we think we could have done a lot better. The sound wasn't as good as it could have been and some of the songs aren't as strong as our newer material.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Lessons Learned' at the moment, and why? There's a few - ‘Moving Forwards’, ‘I Always Knew’, ‘Reason’ and ‘Escape To LA’ are staple songs in our live sets and we've just started playing ‘Young’ again too. The additions of Luke on bass/vocals, our previous drummer Joel who we recorded the EP with and now our new drummer Mitch have breathed new life into the songs both vocally and musically. They're a lot more punchy than when they were recorded and in the previous live sets. We've had a lot of positive reactions to the new and improved versions and we hope that continues.
What else can we expect to see from A Few Too Many in 2018? The EP goes live on all digital platforms on October 12th and is available for pre-order now. We're working on getting some physical copies as well which we hope will be available at the same time, if not shortly after. We're looking to book some shows in around the EP release if it's feasible and and to get a least a handful of gigs in before Christmas. We've also just started the writing process for album number two, the first song is taking shape nicely and again shows a progression sound-wise and in writing ability. We also plan to sit down and discuss what we want to do during 2019 and what we want to achieve so watch this space!
Can you tell us about how The Sherlocks originally got together? Kiaran & Brandon already lived in Bolton on Dearne, when Andy & Josh moved into the village. The band originally started when we started jamming together in our parentâ€™s garage. Then we played locals gigs and it went from there.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Bolton On Dearne? There wasnâ€™t much of a scene at all, there were a few cover bands in the local clubs but that was it. We started smashing the local scene and causing a stir. Getting local pubs packed full, then we started doing original gigs in Sheffield
Was there a particular moment when you felt like you could be more than just an upcoming band? If there was one moment, it would have probably been when we put our first headline show on in Sheffield and sold it out.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of highlights from your time on the road? We started the year off in Japan with a headline show. Then went straight into a huge UK tour. After that we supported Liam Gallagher in Europe then when we got back we went and toured for a month in America/Canada. Then we smashed the festival season. It’s been a massive year for us but one of the highlights was probably playing summer-sonic festival in Japan.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Live For The Moment', and what does it mean to you? The album is named after one of our songs which was our debut single. That song got a huge reaction and connected with our fans.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout the album? I think high energy and youthfulness were naturally the main themes as we are young lads. We were influenced by everything and all types of music. The studio Rockfield had a special vibe, everything we recorded and wrote in the studio sounded great so it inspired us everyday.
How did you end up working with Gavin Monaghan, and how would you say he helped shape the album? We heard of him from a friend a few years ago, we wanted someone to help us take our sound to the next level. From the moment we met him we realised his brain was full of music. He can find ideas that no one would ever think of, often crazy ones that work really well. Gav helped with everything from structures to drum/guitar sounds and parts. He literally lives and breathes music, genius!
Looking back on the release of the album, how happy have you been with the feedback to it, and what do you think it's done for the representation of The Sherlocks? We couldn’t be happier with how the album has been received, our existing fans have taken it and cherished it. It has also helped us grow and gain new loyal fans. I think a lot of people genuinely love it just like us.
When you look back on the album, was there a particular song that you found challenging to put together, or that maybe took longer than the others? If so, which one and why? Almost every song had been around for quite some time so we knew what we were doing. Although ‘Nobody Knows’ developed quite a lot when being recorded, particularly the last part of the song. There was an insane amount of ideas flying around for it! The only other one really was ‘Motions’. which was re-wrote in the studio and turned out completely different to the rest of the album. But for that reason we felt it deserved a place on the record.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We can’t wait for it. Touring just feels like one big party and the fans always turn up for a good time at the gigs, so no worries there. We’re just buzzing to see our fans and cause some chaos!
What else can we expect to see from The Sherlocks in 2018? We don’t want to say too much, but we’ve got more than enough to keep busy with aside from tours. So let’s just say, keep your eyes on our socials.
Interview with Philip
Can you tell us how Normandie originally got together? Our manager Maria reached out to us one by one, putting together a band of almost total strangers. After a few years some came in, some dropped out and now what’s left is four equally passionate souls with a great chemistry.
Was there a particular moment when you realised that you had the potential to make a career out of music? I think it was when we were in the studio writing ‘Inguz’. The fact that that album just happened, from almost nothing to being a finished product in three months has to mean something. Two members left the band and I’m not calling it fate, but I’m guessing we had a make it or break it situation and we ended up with a very strong debut album, rather than calling it quits.
How did you end up signing to Easy Life Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? I don’t remember the story that well, because my mind has primarily been on writing and producing the new album, but I know we took a Skype call with Jamie (Osman) and he felt very genuine and passionate something that you really have to value today. It’s been very very good! Our first two singles have broken all records for us, and the product is coming out very nicely!
So, how did you get to the album title 'White Flag', and what does it mean to you? When we release an album we want to have a theme, a meaning that runs through all the songs. With ‘White Flag’ we want to encourage the listener to dare to give up. See, giving up can sometimes be better than making the wrong choice. In a society where the message is “Push through it” and success, money and fame is the ultimate global goal it is easy to burn out. In the title track ‘White Flag’ I sing “We are standing in a burning field of clover”, and that is about finding yourself in a situation where everything tells you you’re lucky to be there, you should be happy, but for some reason you are not. Something has poisoned the relationship and you have to give it up, no matter the loss, to not get infected by it.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes that run throughout 'White Flag’? We really tried to broaden the production and writing for this album, so we started by breaking down what was good about ‘Inguz’ and then tried to build something more mature out of that. ‘Inguz’ was a quick process, ‘White Flag’ took 2 years, so we really took the time to play around and experiment.
Who was the album produced by, and how would you say they helped shape it? It was produced by myself actually, and I also produced ‘Inguz’. I love it as much as I hate it. I have really pushed myself to record and create what I’ve heard in my head from the start, and producing the album has given me that freedom to really work on a detail for days.
You've just unleashed your new single 'White Flag', how did it come together? It’s been with us for almost two years now, in a different shape. It was called ‘Signs’ and had a very different sound, but the same chord progression. Håkan and I, our guitarist, sat down and said we wanted to give the track one last chance before trashing it. So I picked up a bass guitar and just played through the chords and on the spot wrote the new chorus and rhythm etc. It all went down so fast, and we high fived for 20 minutes or so. I still have the phone recording!
You've said that "it's safe to say that this album is the bigger brother of our debut record, Inguz". So, can you elaborate on that, and how you think the sound of Normandie has grown/progressed over the years? All of us listen to different types of music. I listen to a lot of Bon Iver, John Mayer and Tycho. The others listen to everything from pop punk to mumble rap. ‘Inguz’ had a very specific set sound, it fit the genre very well. ‘White Flag’ is in a bigger spectrum. It can speak to Post Malone fans and Slipknot fans at the same time. I think we’ve found our sound, or are at least we’re on our own path!
Looking back on 'Inguz', what do you think it's done for Normandie? It really put out a solid ground for us to stand on. Because it has such a clear sound and straight forward songwriting it is a great album for people to get to know us - rather than us trying to be as niched and cryptic as possible. I think it’s a good album. A bit rushed, but still a very good album. I think ‘White Flag’ has more of an honest Normandie sound, and I hope people will hear that and keep following us.
How excited are you for your upcoming tour with Hands Like Houses? We are super excited for that tour, and wish it was longer! People have been commenting on our social medias that we should tour with HLH since the release of ‘Inguz’. We think we’re a good match, and still fill two different sounds rather than competing - which is how I think a good lineup should be. We’re bringing the new singles of course and some really good vibes. We’ll really try to meet with people and hangout more than ever. I’m excited to see the reactions of the new stuff in real life.
What else can we expect to see from Normandie in 2018? Another single, a 12 track album with something for everyone, release shows in England and Sweden and just a lot of good content!
How did Lucifer originally get together? Nicke: Johanna formed Lucifer in 2015 shortly after her band The Oath broke up. She teamed up with Gaz Jennings and they wrote ‘Lucifer I’ together.
How did you get to the name Lucifer, and what does it mean to you? Nicke: Johanna came up with the name. There have been a few bands around with that name but none that put proper use to it. To me personally it means one of the best band names ever and I’m grateful to be in a band with that name.
Johanna: Lucifer is a powerful figure and outcast, which I identify with mostly, having been an outsider my whole life. It is also a hell of a catchy band name.
Interview with Nicke & Johanna
What was it like to be an upcoming band around Stockholm/Berlin? Nicke: I can’t speak for Johanna obviously but I think it depends on what one means with being an upcoming band. On one hand I treat every band I’m in as an upcoming band, every step of the way because of the ambition to move forward. On the other, I also treat it like it’s a full blown success from the get go. Assertively humble.
Was there a particular moment where you realised that you could be more than just an upcoming band? Nicke: Not really, no. I think we operate emotionally. Any band can be more than upcoming. What bands have influenced you the most since starting out as Lucifer, and why? Nicke: I can’t speak for Johanna but we share a lot of musical inspirations and influences. The common denominator being our love for Blue Öyster Cult. Also Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Blue Cheer, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Kiss, Heart, Stooges etc.
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? Nicke: We’ve played around eight shows this year so far. The highlights have been the shows themselves. Apart from that it’s been mostly driving and a little bit of drinking. Mostly not at the same time.
So, what made you want to go for the straight to the point album title of 'Lucifer II'? Nicke: Having a first album titled ‘Lucifer I’ made it scarily easy to come up with a title for the second album.
How did you (Nicke) end up joining Lucifer for this album, and what have you brought to the creative process of the band? Nicke: I ended up in Lucifer after Gaz left in late 2016. I suggested Johanna and me writing together and we did. We wrote the album pretty much the same way she and Gaz wrote the first album. We sent sketches and demos back and forth to each other and not long after we started recording in my studio whenever Johanna came to Stockholm. I don’t know what I brought to the creative process other than my perspective. I’m just super happy to be in a band with such a great singer as Johanna and we hit it off really well with the song writing. And that the band is called Lucifer!
Who produced the album, and how would you say they helped shape it? Nicke: Johanna and I produced the album. I’m kind of a one trick pony when it comes to engineering. My sonic preference hardly changes so the drums for this album for example, sound the way they do because that’s how I know how to record it and it’s also the sound I like. Then there’s details and spicing like effects and stuff that we shaped together.
How did the music video for 'California Son' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind this track in particular? Nicke: Johanna had the idea for the video with us on bikes against a green screen and we asked Emil Klinta to shoot it. We shot most of the background stuff ourselves and I did the titles. Johanna writes all the lyrics and melodies and they’re all personal including this one.
Johanna: Remember those quirky 70s green screen TV appearances of bands like Deep Purple, Jefferson Airplane, Steppenwolf? I wanted to pay homage to these in a way that shows Lucifer is not only gloom and doom. We are rocknrollers after all. I filmed some of my favourite cemeteries and locations in Los Angeles and made a bit of a collage of things I dig. The song is dedicated to my son, who lives in Los Angeles. Musically my thought here was ‘Highway Star’, ‘Born To Be Wild’ and the likes.
What else can we expect to see from Lucifer in 2018? Nicke: A European tour in October as well as Scandinavia in November/December. We’ll also start working on the next album which will most likely be titled ‘Lucifer III’.
Interview with Jeremy
How did you get to the album title 'True Rockers', and what does it mean to you? I feel like this one is kinda self-explanatory. Itâ€™s a punch in the face type album title don't you think? Our fans are our True Rockers. We are True Rockers!
A lot of the record was created on the road, so how important was it for you guys to work that way? Well it was kind of mandatory at the time because we were shooting for a quick turnaround to get back on the road fast (We really messed that up eh?). We came home with the majority of the album ready to pre-produce and record and we went right into the studio and did just that. But then Xmas happened and we got in our own heads and decided to do a bunch more tracking while at the same time negotiating a bunch of business stuff and not touring. It kind of sucked.
How did you end up working with Dan Weller, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Dan was a bit more involved in the song construction process as well as having a more detailed vision for the instrumentation of some songs. He was a strong believer in having additional instruments on the record like harmonica and strings for moments that really called for it. Many times I watched him attempt ideas that simply didn't work in the name of pushing the boundaries of what a song could fit. It was the only way to have magic moments on the record that wouldnâ€™t have existed otherwise because of the lengths he was willing to go to try anything.
We've read that "'True Rockers’ is the sound of a band letting lose and having fun" so can you elaborate on that, and maybe a bit about how the sound on this record compares to anything you've done before? Man that’s a tough ask. I’ve spent many hours thinking about that without elicitation and I still don’t know. I will say this. The true vision for a song or how I want an album to sound has never been fully realized. Maybe that’s always the way it’s going to be. Because who is really going to be able to climb inside my head and pull out what I’m envisioning. The only person that can come close to that magic is our singer Jon who can take a riff I’m working on and transform it into either EXACTLY what I’m wanting the vocal to be or make it better than I ever imagined. I already feel lucky to have that. So can I even expect to work with a producer who can realize my EXACT vision for a song or sound. I don't know man.
How did you end up working with Dee Snider, and what did he bring to 'True Rocker'? He brought the exact performance to the moment of the song that we wanted. We just really had an idea to have this evangelistic preacher moment and knew he would be perfect for it. Luckily he agreed. ha!
‘Thundertruck’ was originally put together for the 'Sittin' Heavy' sessions but was abandoned. So, why was it originally let go, and how has it found its way back onto 'True Rockers'? It was let go because we didn’t really have a verse idea and it was really kind of stuck in one spot as far as the main riff went because it was originally imagined as a guitar part and when you played it the bottom fell out of the intro because there was no rhythm guitar. Once we realized it should be an organ rip we knew where to go with the rest of it.
Also, how did you end up working with producers Gavin Brown and Maia Davies, and what did they bring to 'True Rockers’? We needed a fast turn around and high calibre people to bring a few extra songs home. We were also looking for people with a great track record who could help with fundamental song structures and vocal construction. They checked all the boxes.
Looking back on ‘Sittin’ Heavy’, how happy are you with the album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Monster Truck? I’m really happy with everything we’ve released so far. There’s always going to be things you wished you would have done differently which I always expect to happen. At the end of the day we always take too long to make albums because of how hard we scrutinize the songs and the process. I’m nothing but proud and satisfied with the releases. However I think the process and time to get them there needs improvement.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from ‘Sittin’ Heavy’, and why? I LOVE ‘NEW SOUL’. Ha. It’s so fun to play live. It will always live in my heart.
What else can we expect to see from Monster Truck in 2018? The album has just come out, and we have one tour before it’s 2019 already! We’ve got to figure out how to make albums more efficiently and stay on the road!
Interview with Mike
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Touring wise we've not been doing much. We played a few shows in America when we were over recording. We did a small show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. That was the first venue we played in the states back in '09 and it was great to be back. I had such a great time. We played a bunch of new songs of the new album and they all went down really well. Maybe one of my favourite shows ever!
How did you get to the album title 'The More I Sleep the Less I Dream', and what does it mean to you? It's a line from a song, plus a song title. The song itself was key when we were writing the album. We'd scrapped a bunch of songs because they didn't feel right and we were sad and started jamming (sorry, I hate that word so much but there it is anyway) that song and it made us feel better. "Hey, we can still do this!" that kind of thing. Plus the title itself really speaks to the themes of the album. It's dreamlike, and not just because it has the word dream in there. It washes over you in a really nice way. Hopefully, anyway.
Can you elaborate on what we can expect from the lyrical approach to 'The More I Sleep the Less I Dream'? Nope! I have no idea. Adam's lyrics usually come from a subconscious place to begin with and are then honed into something that makes some sort of sense. So each song is usually about two or three different things all mashed in there. I know that the album's themes seem to be miscommunication, dreams, having the rug pulled from under you, that kind of thing. But that's just my opinion based on listening to him record vocal takes. I could be way off. I have been before!
What made you want to release 'Hanging In' first, and can you tell us a bit about how that track in particular came together? It was the last song we wrote for the album and it felt like a really good window into the album as a whole. It speaks to the tone of the whole record really well, hopefully. It didn't take that long to write, which speaks to a big thing we were trying to do with this album which was to write on instinct again. Not overthink structures, things like that. Let our personality drive the songs and not "well you're not supposed to do that." And ‘Hanging In’ is a good example because it's not like it's the weirdest song ever. But it still feels like us.
We've read that this record is "about going back to the heart of who they are" so would you agree with that, and if so, how has the creative process on this album compared to anything you've done before? Our creative process started to change with the last album. With ‘Unravelling’, we tried to really push ourselves and focus in on why we were doing certain things. Tried to consciously take a step forwards. In the end, we kind of went sideways. This time we initially went even further in that direction. Tried to write songs that'd get played on the radio. And the way you do that is to tone everything down. Tone down the instrumentation and point at the vocal melody and make everything simple. We tried that and it just felt hollow. So we scrapped pretty much our whole album and went back to how we used to do things. Which is quite instinctive and not worrying too much about over-doing instrumentation. Which is how we used to do things. Except now we're older. So, hopefully, we've taken a step forward that's natural and not forced. Fingers crossed.
How did you end up working with Jonathan Low, and how would you say he helped shape the album? He was on a list we made. We like pretty much everything he's recorded. So we Skyped and immediately loved his vibe. (Including bonding over hating the word "vibe"). He really understood what we were trying to do. We wanted the songs to be finely tuned before we recorded, so all the overdubs were designed to bring out stuff we were already playing rather than tacking on extra melodies for the sake of it. He got that and helped immensely with making the record sound natural without sounding thrown together.
What was it like to work so far away from home on the East Coast of America in Philadelphia and New York? It was fine. The last album was the only one we've made and stayed at home, so it wasn't too unusual. The studios were great and Jon and Matt (engineer) were both great. The time just flew by.
So you guys made the decision that "No more touring until a new album had been written". How important was that for you, to sort of get grounded again after a pretty busy decade in the music world? It was actually really important. It was important to get some momentum going. We write together in a room, and it's hard to do that at the best of times, so it's almost impossible when you also have to practice old songs for shows. That's not something we'd ever really worried about before. It also helped, I think, to remove ourselves from being a band that plays old songs and feel like a band writing a record from scratch.
With a four year gap. How would you say the sound of We Were Promised Jetpacks has evolved/changed over that time? I'm too close to say. We're all old now, ha, and hearing songs from our first record really feels like they were written by kids. But I don't know, the songs are still us. They're still in the middle ground between post-rock and more poppy songs that people, you know, buy. So who knows.
How did the album artwork for 'The More I Sleep the Less I Dream' come together, and what does it mean to you? It was put together by the very patient and creative Grace Lawrie deciphering a pretty tough, irritating outline we gave her! Initially, she showed us the mountain with the blur lines and we really liked the weird perspective of it. But a bit of a theme for us is boldness. Being bold. Following through with an idea and not watering it down for the sake of, you know, something. So after that, we sent her an EVEN MORE ANNOYING note and she came back with the colours and we all loved it. It means different things to different people which is good. Hopefully it means something different to everyone. Or it at least looks pretty.
Looking back on 'Unravelling', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of We Were Promised Jetpacks? I don't really like listening back to old stuff. I can always pick holes in it and it makes me anxious. I've been listening to the new album though, I really like it! It's nice to be able to listen for a change. Anyway, I think that album was pretty good. It feels a little functional, rather than inspiring, but that's just me. There were behind the scenes stuff happening there that aren't happening any more, but I think it was okay for our representation on the whole!
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Unravelling' right now, and why? Kind of none of them! They all feel too of-that-time. Personally I still like playing â€˜Peace of Mindâ€™, but it's been out of rotation for a little bit because it's quite hard to get into a setlist. We take care over our setlists and try to make sure they don't just feel like a list of songs. I'm pitching that one for a comeback.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Very excited! We'll be playing most, if not all, of the album so they can expect that.
What else can we expect to see from We Were Promised Jetpacks in 2018? Other than an album release and tour?! Not sure what else we can possibly do. I've got some good tweets lined up?
So how did you get to the album title 'AAARTH', and what does it mean to you? I like lyrical ambiguity & playing on words because the songs or the albums we write are often expressing more than one feeling or idea. That’s true of ‘AAARTH’, it’s playing on this motif of the bear (“arth” in Welsh) a symbol for many cultures of strength and wisdom, channelling some of that emotion whilst also falling somewhere between a scream & an exaltation. That sense of purging yourself of unwanted feelings, there’s something quite primal on this album about letting go & starting over.
We've read that this record "promises to be your most vibrant and experimental yet", so can you elaborate on that, and maybe how it compares overall to anything you've done before? I think you can trace it back to our mindset when we first started making ‘AAARTH’. We weren’t in a good place, we felt tired & strained by some things that had happened & our personal lives were unraveling. We made the choice to go into the studio & make this record so long as it felt good & energized us again. I think an even greater sense of freedom & vigor came from that, we let loose & we were feeling playful about the production & the recording. We realized that we had a lot to share & say on this record.
ew with Ritzy
If possible, can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from the lyrical content on the album? It’s pretty varied. Some songs are collage-like, tracks like ‘The Wrong Side’ & ‘Y Bluen Eira’ come from snippets of dreams & memories. Other songs read more like stanzas of poetry, ‘Caught on a Breeze’ was a 10 minute stream of consciousness.
What was it like to record most of 'AAARTH' in Utah? Yeah, the majority of the sessions were at my house in Utah (a tiny part was written on the road). Southern Utah is so beautiful & the light and the red rocks are very colourful & vibrant. There’s a mystical quality to the landscape, it’s easy to find true wilderness, pitch black dark skies. And the stars, I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life & Wales has some pretty cool nightskies.
How did the music video idea for 'Dance Of The Lotus' come together, and what was it like to work with TRLLM? They are a fantastic duo Kate & Jak, full of imagination & originality. They’re great animators. We had a lot of visual ideas for ‘Dance of the Lotus’, since it was spawned from a particular event. They just took our ideas & brought them to life.
How did the cool artwork for 'AAARTH' come together, and what does it mean to you? The piece is called Eu Vim de Muito Longe and it’s by Fernando Chamarelli. We saw it as a mural that he’d painted & we loved the intricacy, the colours, how your eye gets taken to lots of different places. It made us think of the album that we were making, how the layers come and go & you hear things differently with every listen.
Looking back on 'Hitch', how happy are you with the album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of The Joy Formidable? I think it’ll always be one of my favourite TJF records. That record was written live, with the tape running, the 3 of us together in a room, performing like we do on stage & I have so many memories from that time we spent together. It’s a very sad album, heartbreaking in places, that doesn’t leave you.
How did your recent tour with Foo Fighters go, and what’s it like to tour with them? Great people, love the band & it’s a beautiful part of the country to tour.
What else can we expect to see from The Joy Formidable in 2018? A lot of new music through our TJF AAA Music Club, that’s the main thing we’re working on. We put together a really beautiful boxset for ‘AAARTH’ & the 10 track bonus material is really special to us. www.thejoyformidable.com
Interview with Dave
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We’ve had an amazing year so far! Highlights have been heading out with our friends in Marmozets back in May, and then straight after that we headed out with A Perfect Circle in Europe. They are one of our collective favourite bands, and it was genuinely an honour to share a stage with them. Playing at L’Olympia in Paris was a personal highlight. It’s one of the best venues in the world and has so much history, and watching APC after us in that room was very special indeed.
So, how did you get to the album title 'All That Divides', and what does it mean to you? Well, the title comes from us analysing the songs and realising that subconsciously a lot of them were inspired by themes of segregation and detachment. To me I feel like the title is something of a challenge - for the listener to overcome the obstacles that are separating them from what is really important to them personally.
Your latest single 'Electric Fires', was one of the first songs to come together for 'All That Divides', so can you tell us about how it came together, and maybe what that track in particular was like to work on? Well Joe initially came in with the chorus and middle eight / solo section mapped out. The rest was kind of jammed together - I wasn’t there at the time, but I have been assured by Liam that during this process a “Riff Hawk came down from the sky and sat on Joe’s guitar”, and then a “Humongous Ox-Beast trampled through my drum kit.” So there you have it...
You've said that "Lyrically at least, this album represents the fear of a future where freedom is restricted". So can you maybe elaborate on that, and a bit more about what we can expect from the lyrical approach of 'All That Divides’? One of the strange ironies of modern culture is that we’re more connected than ever before, but despite this it’s easy to feel personally and socially isolated. Things that felt like complete Sci-Fi when we were kids are now a reality, but along with this it’s easy to become apathetic. We have to give away access to our personal information just to buy things or talk to our friends, and that’s where some of that fear comes from.
You've said that "We have seen people, families, relationships and countries divided by conflict and political upheaval". So can you tell us about how being a touring a band, and seeing all of this for real has gone on to shape the creative process for this record? One of the things we enjoy the most about being in a band is that we get to travel to places we’ve never been and experience different cultures. We are always surprised by the passion and hospitality from people in places we’ve never been before, and it’s a beautiful thing. However it happened to be that while touring ‘Statues’ we were in mainland Europe during the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, and also during the Brexit referendum result. Obviously these events caused confusion, fear, anger, and desperation, and all of that had a lasting effect on us.
So, how did you end up working with Adrian Bushby, and how would you say he helped shape the album? We had a meet-up planned with Ade to chat through potentially working together on the album and his enthusiasm just won us over straight away. He brought along a notebook. Often producers might come in and say “Make this verse shorter, double this bridge etc.” but Ade’s notes just said “REALLY AWESOME!” He was just so hyped on the songs, and knew exactly how to get the best out of us and the songs.
What was the hardest song to put together on 'All That Divides', and why? Personally I don’t feel like any of the songs that ended up on the album were actually difficult to put together… We write in different ways, sometimes Joe might come in with a fleshed out structure that we’ll work on together, sometimes we’ll jam in a room and explore ideas, but usually the ones that come together the quickest are the strongest songs. If a song is really difficult to finish, or we have to labour over it to get it right, we tend to take that as a sign that we haven’t struck gold, and so we’ll shelve that idea and possibly revisit it later. We’ve got plenty to work on for album three.
How did the music video idea for 'Home' come together, and what was it like to work with Lewis Cater? Leading on from the fear of a future where freedom is restricted, we had a chat with Lewis about the potential worst possible outcome of where we currently are in Brexit Britain. Interestingly in retrospect, Lewis’ concept included a scene where the protagonist character (played by the excellent Harry Trevaldwyn) was eating stockpiled canned beans because food supplies had run out - Theresa May obviously saw this scene and thought it was a wise idea! Lewis is an excellent director and we’ll be working with him again soon.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We can’t wait! It’s going to be so much fun, especially with our friends in Bossk and Gold Key coming along. You can expect us to be supported by two of the best bands in the UK, a healthy mix of new and old songs, Will bounding around the stage like his shoes are on fire, and a few more tricks we’ve got up our sleeves...
What else can we expect to see from Black Peaks in 2018? We’re going to be busy..! We’re in the beginning stages of some pretty special shows, and we also want to get out to some places we’ve never been to before. Watch this space!
So, how did you end up signing to Hopeless Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? We’ve been good friends with Megan (their creative content director) pretty much since we first came to the US - and so when our deal with Rise expired she pretty much single handedly convinced us and everyone at Hopeless that we should sit down for a chat and it was all magic from there. They are all true and genuine humans and we’ve loved working with them. If something’s a great idea, they’re 150% behind it. If it’s not, they’re 150% honest about why it’s not and what we could do instead. We’re loving it.
We've read that each track is "built around a shared human experience or perspective" so can you elaborate Interview with Trenton on that, and maybe what else we can expect from the lyrical approach of 'Anon.'? On the plane to the studio I was mentally preparing myself for a crazy two weeks of foot-to-the-floor writing (I got married in April and so was honeymooning for the first month of studio time) and was just trying to work out how to engage myself in the writing process. Writing meaningful lyrics is tough when you’re happy and content - people seem to love other people being miserable haha. But I think the idea just clicked that my job isn’t to write about my own experiences for people to see their reflection in them - I just have to make a mirror. So separating the narratives through the album from a central character be that me, or someone else - meant that this album could be about anyone, and about no-one. I don’t want people hearing a song about heartbreak and questioning my own relationship. I don’t want people hearing a song about anger and thinking I hate someone in particular. That’s not the point. So the album became this concept where who I am and who we are as a band shouldn’t shape the way people hear it it should be an afterthought that enhances the meaning, not creates it. The double meaning to it for us as well is that, at some point, every single person that follows HLH has discovered us by hearing a song and saying “Holy hell this is exactly what I wanted to hear right now, who made this?.” That original experience seems to shape people’s expectations from that point in and so often, they can’t let go, and so we get people complaining on youtube about change they can’t handle, you get people yelling “PLAY THIS OBSCURE OLD SONG” at shows, you get people writing us off because we didn’t replicate an experience they’ve already had and are desperate to get back. That’s not our job we want to write the music that we want to exist, and make it enjoyable for other people as much as ourselves. I’d honestly and happily say that most of our fans appreciate that and are along for the ride, and for that we’re genuinely grateful.
How did you end up working with Colin Brittain, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Colin was suggested by Eric Tobin at Hopeless actually! He was on a short list of producers we were looking into, so we went to the studio for a coffee and a chat and something about his energy, his creativity and philosophy - towards music and us individually - clicked immediately. He has come from an indie/alternative rock background as a touring musician so he knew the role that plays in your creative processes and internal relationships, as well as giving him a totally different sonic perspective to approach our songs from.
What was the hardest song to put together on 'Anon.', and why? I think ‘Black’ was the most challenging because it evolved from a riffy, bouncy B-Side we wrote around the same time we wrote ‘Drift’ into this dark, almost-hip-hop groove. I think it went through 4 or 5 complete revisions musically, and 2 or 3 melodically, before basically throwing that all out the window and starting over one more time for the record.
How did the artwork for 'Anon.' come together? We felt like the idea of “unknown potential” in a butterfly chrysalis was visually interesting and fit the themes, so we had a good friend of ours (Stuart Miller - a photographer who specialises in big-brand product photography) adopt some chrysalises from a butterfly habitat, take some studio photos over a week or so as they emerged, then we had those photos edited in to a layout with Brian Manley at Fun With Robots.
How did the music video for 'Monster' come together, and if possible, can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? Ha. We shot three videos in four days while also tracking the last few things in the studio… needless to say it was hectic. We actually shot everything for ‘Monster’ on green screen - all the close ups were done on a portable green-screen backdrop on the same day and in the same location as ‘Overthinking’, then we sent all the raw footage to our mate Sam Koster, who put together all the VFX. We gave him a pretty wild brief Hitchcock meets Warhol - and he absolutely nailed it. Probably my favourite video that we’ve made so far! The track is about when things going on inside your head start to come out and you aren’t really sure you’re in control.
So looking back on 'Dissonants', how happy are you with the album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Hands Like Houses? Totally - we’re immensely proud of the songs on that album and most, if not all of them, will be in our live set rotation for a long time. It was and is the album that opened the most doors for us as a band. We just want to write songs that are as fun to listen to as to play and experience live and ‘Dissonants’ is the album where we figured out that balance. We can’t wait to play ‘Anon.’ live and see where it takes us!
What songs are you still enjoying performing live from 'Dissonants' at the moment, and why? I think ‘Momentary’ and ‘Stillwater’ are two of my favourites to play live, even though they aren’t in every set. They’re a little more down-tempo but I feel that makes them perfect for just being in the moment and feeling the groove and atmosphere they both carry.
Was there anything that you learnt from creating 'Dissonants' that you maybe applied to 'Anon.'? Honestly - the ‘Dissonants’ recording process was a super tough one (which we’ve discussed at length previously) with crazy tour schedules, missed deadlines and immense pressure from ourselves and externally. That pressure made for a hell of a diamond, but it certainly shaped ‘Anon.’ by being a template of how we DIDN’T want to make another album.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Expect nothing and embrace everything! We will be coming in hot with a bunch of new tracks off ‘Anon.’, plus some killer supports in Normandie and Jule Vera, so it’s going to be a great time. Can’t wait!
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? Hm - even split between two London shows I think. Our last headliner at O2 Islington was the biggest headline show we’d ever played at the time, and there was so many good vibes in the room. It’s going to stay in my mind for a long time. But the other was perhaps the most “special” - after the OM&M run was cancelled for Europe due to Austin’s health issues, we scheduled two last minute shows to play ‘Dissonants’ in full and playing ‘Bloodlines’ for the first time ever in London, we got to the bridge and as I sang it, the crowd took over and I choked up and could barely finish it myself - I don’t think I’ve ever felt that emotionally connected on stage before. It was a beautiful moment.
What else can we expect to see from Hands Like Houses in 2018 and onwards? Honestly we’re just going to keep playing the hand in front of us, the best way we know how, but the energy and excitement for this record, both in our professional circles but also in the early fan responses to ‘Overthinking’ and ‘Monster’, is a pretty good indicator that things are about to get crazy. We’re excited!
Interview with Forrest
So, how did you get to the album title 'S'Only Natural', and what does it mean to you? It’s almost as if the phrase kept following me around. Years ago I made an art/craft piece with it written in glowire over a landscape painting. I’d sing it to myself long before it became a song. It’s printed all over products today to market how pure and unadulterated this salty processed cracker is etc. Obviously natural is a word that is pretty malleable definitively, which I like because I would say this collection of songs similarly is hard to pin down. The most common definition is usually not created or altered by humans, as if we’re excused from this whole naturalism game altogether, but this isn’t true. At its limit, everything we do is inherently natural, and I’ve fallen in love with that idea. As it relates to the music; all over there are things largely untampered with, the shuffle of a foot on the floor, the creak of an old piano, we played things through from beginning to end and didn’t digitally adhere them to a grid. It’s, no doubt, the most natural recording I’ve ever made.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'S'Only Natural'? Optimism, which is honestly something I wouldn’t recognize were it not for others telling me it was so. I am (apparently) unflinchingly optimistic, but not because I think sh*t is all good all the time. I just know that for every three bummer things you’re aware of, there’s a nearly infinite more you’re not. Oh wait, sound sad? It’s okay, because it goes the other way too. Nearly infinite positive aspects exist that you may not even, or can’t even yet realize. Suddenly now my calculus is, wow, I should simply push toward positivity and resist getting fatal about “How bad it is”. With ‘Everything is Debatable’ I was thinking about death all the time, thinking how magical and fleeting life is. Like I was awestruck by it. That might be the most striking through line to everything I’ve done with Hellogoodbye, down to the name, which was always intended to represent the fleeting nature of life. So make the most of it y’all!
What was the hardest song to put together on 'S'Only Natural', and why? ‘Close’. it was the first song I started and one of the last ones I finished. I just had so much wrapped up in it. I knew there was this ineffable feeling I wanted to encapsulate, but I kept stuffing things in and other aspects squeezed out. Originally I wanted to make something secularly-spiritual (and sure, it ended up sounding like a worship song [fun game: replace any “You” with “He” and things get biblical fast]) that could speak to the holiness of consensual human touch, like a new religion for the rest of us who just worship each other, and love. Hopefully now it does that obliquely, though that’s a little too manic-am-i-kanye? of a thought to approach that head on, especially as a 34 year old thinning-haired white man. Still, I did my best and it might be the most meaningful song (to me) I’ve ever written.
How did the music video for 'S'Only Natural' come together, and what was it like to work with Andrew Lee? In perfect accordance with the name, it fell together obviously, with all the friends in my life and objects in the room coming together to make something perfectly in/coherent. Andrew is a genius with a beautiful curiosity and openness, it’s hard to imagine he came to me from so close by (we’ve been friends for years). He and I brought some lights into my wife’s warehouse (she does flowers/weddings here in the states) and invited some of our closest friends. It was a fun concept to play with because the concept was there are no rules.
Each album you've done harnesses its own unique sound (in a good way!). So how important is it for you to progress as a musician, instead of just putting together the same album as the one before it to maybe please certain people? it’s not only important, it’s obligatory. I can’t even begin to understand why anyone would continue retracing their steps on purpose. We are creatures of habit, sure, but I try to leave habit to the subconscious and make my conscious mind break habit whenever possible. To cease to grow would not only be to cease to live, but would also be the only true marker of failure. An album is a record, good for recording things and keeping them as they were, recallable in their original form, verbatim. That’s why you make them and move on.
Are there any particular artists/bands that really inspired you when putting together this record? If so, who and why? I had many, music being a multifaceted thing. An interesting thing to note here is that like so many others I had my musical access and catalog blown up exponentially by YouTube and Spotify. I went down long paths exploring soul, disco, italo, bebop etc. I fell in love with bands I knew music from but hadn’t dove so deep into, like the chic organization. Music with a natural feel and groove that lives and breathes and changes from one moment to the next. Music we’d be tempted to sample today, but I wanted to know how you get that feel for yourself. How can our bodies feel that groove today? Since it’s been so long between records for me, I could list dozens of perspective changing artists, but I’ve always been pulled to artists that seem to follow a path no one could have ever charted for them. Jonathan Richman became terribly important to me over the last decade, not for his groove (there is none to speak of) but for his absolute commitment to sincerity. Those are the two major poles that have always attracted my gaze, groove and authenticity.
Somehow it's been five years since your last output, which we believe is the longest gap between an album you've had to date? So, how important did this time away become, and how do you think it went on to shaping 'S'Only Natural'? A perfect storm of factors. I do think it’s important to live, do other things, grow, and then come back more informed, inspired, interesting. Also politics in America messed me up for a while. I had to figure out how to deal with that. I definitely lost it for a while wondering what was worth saying out loud. Art started getting really heavy, like: in whatever small little butterfly effect way, you’re shaping culture. It’s important. what should we celebrate? And what should we ignore or denigrate? Also I moved homes, leaving my first studio behind and building a new one from scratch, mostly by hand.
What’s it like to work with Alcopop! Records? Blown away by jack and Alcopop! he seems (we haven’t yet met, just phone calls) like a deeply excited and passionate person. I’ll hover around his magic little world just for the contact high!
You recently did a one-off intimate solo performance here in the UK in London, so how did that go, and how exciting was it to play some of your newer material live? It was fantastic! Incredibly slap dash, a flight cancelled on the way out, a wrinkle here and there, I hadn’t a guitar or amp 30 minutes after doors had opened. I put out to Twitter for a favor and a lovely lad lent me a helping hand. Got the guitar got the amp, and found I hardly needed them most of the time because we had a bit of a whispered sing along while I scarcely played a note. Then I played a handful of new songs that feel like a second skin that fits just like my original skin.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? Ah, deep love for the UK. we’ve visited a handful of times and usually with the benefit of our guitarist Andy Richards who was our social in and cultural guru, being a Londoner himself. played our biggest headline show anywhere in London, but also had two pence thrown unrelentingly at us while opening for Taking Back Sunday so it’s not all been roses. I’ve met many wonderful people in England and I’ll cherish them forever. On our YouTube we’ve got a video from 2011, the last time we really came through, that sums a bit of it up pretty well. Can’t wait to come spring 2019 though!
Looking back on 'Everything Is Debatable', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Hellogoodbye? Asking me questions I don’t often ponder. I’m quite happy with it, but it is what it is, innit? It, too, was a hard fought battle with many revisions & retracking, and all of it worth it. the only tune that fell short of ambitions was ‘Swear You’re in Love’. a demo of the song had a magic I never re-created, and was too dumb to recognize. ‘Stare Into The Black’ appears on ‘S’Only Natural’ in its original “demo” form, because I knew this time not to mess with it. Good to learn that lesson. In terms of the representation of Hellogoodbye, I hope, and imagine, it was confusing and was an assertion that Hellogoodbye was a confusing band that wasn’t going away.
What else can we expect to see from Hellogoodbye in 2018? We will release ‘S’Only Natural’, the most important recording of our lifetime! With any luck at all we’ll be back in the UK in the spring of 2019!
Interview with John
So, how did you get to the album title 'The American Dream', and what does it mean to you? I moved to Texas to be with my girlfriend and escape a kind of toxic environment and past that I was living in here in Australia. Whilst living in Texas, I was inspired by the people, the character I was subject to and its natural beauty. There’s something so romantic about the Deep South that touched me deeply, so I named the story about the continuation of my pursuit of happiness ‘The American Dream’. It means everything to me - it’s the story of my life.
Can you tell us a bit about how Texas became such a big influence on the album? Texas is thick with personality. Unhinging beauty, diverse cultures, honest and real simplicity, it was beautiful. I became obsessed with middle class, everyday people and their tiny lives. I could finally see what Bruce Springsteen was always talking bout - real people. All they need to enjoy themselves is a hot summer night, whiskey and live music at the bar. There was a humanistic electricity in those heavy, still, summer nights. Classic rock, glasses clinking and fireflies so close you could touch them. I fell in love, and ‘The American Dream’ was how I expressed that love.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout the album? Like any Trophy Eyes record, the themes and influences are all the same. It’s simply a first hand account of your average mid 20s man, and the trials and tribulations that he faces on his quest to be a better person.
How did you end up working with Chris Craker, and can you tell us a bit about what he was like to work with? Chris Craker owns Karma Studios where we go to record with our dear friend and producer/engineer Shane Edwards in Thailand. He’s an absolute delight to work with; sweet, honest, professional and sensitive to people’s art. Watching him work, listen and understand was inspiring.
How did you end up working with Warwick Hughes for the music video 'Friday Forever', and can you tell us about the meaning behind this track in particular? I came to Warwick with the idea of a person dancing in a room, free of judgment, and just letting lose like no one is watching - pure expression. After I organised choreography, and costume Warwick and I filmed in a day and then worked closely on the edit and colour grade together. The song is a story about my oldest friends and I. It’s funny how when you’re younger, everything feels easy and you’re comforted with a warm layer of “That won’t happen to me”. Then, as you grow older, life gets in the way, and some of those people you used to watch the sun rise with, you may never see again. That’s what ‘Friday Forever’ is about.
How did the front cover for 'The American Dream' come together, and what does it mean to you? We were looking for something bold and eye catching. I remember our key words were “big”, “clean” and “bold”. We wanted a familiar Rock n’ Roll feeling that felt classic yet modern. I worked out the colour scheme and while Pat (?) created the flaming eagle origami thing. There’s no relevance to the title behind it apart from the fact that it simply looks cool.
How did Blake Caruso end up joining Trophy Eyes, and what has he brought to the band? Our last drummer was asked to leave because of their antisocial behaviour. It made touring, writing, even being in a band, too hard. We asked Blake to fill in with full intentions of asking him to stay. We’ve known him for years, courtesy of touring and playing shows together - he’s one of our dearest friends. He brought a happiness I’ve never seen this band have. Everything just works now - writing is fun, touring is a dream and the over all energy of the band is the best it’s ever felt. Apart from reviving the band, Blake brought a skill that’s second to none. Raw, natural talent and an ear for good music.
Looking back on 'Chemical Miracle', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Trophy Eyes? It was a good album, and probably the first thing I’ve made that I’d genuinely enjoyed. It’s a great representation of us at that time and opened doors for us creatively to explore music in other ways and shapes. It was our real first record.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Chemical Miracle' at the moment, and why? I still enjoy playing all of them. The thing about personal songs is that they become like a photograph; a captured memory of a time and place. I would say probably ‘Daydreamer’ if I had to pick one. That was my favourite song from the last record and meant the most to me emotionally. I feel like you can hear some of ‘The American Dream’ in that song - it’s kind of like it knew where I was going before I did.
Was there anything that you learnt from creating 'Chemical Miracle' that you maybe applied to 'The American Dream'? To be unafraid when creating. The censorship of art will be the end of art. That album helped me understand the potential I had as a writer and motivated me to explore it.
What else can we expect to see from Trophy Eyes in 2018? If you can imagine it, it’s possible.
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 finished up the very last Vans Warped Tour ever in the USA, it was pretty amazing being a part of that for over 20 years!
You were just on the final Warped Tour, so how bittersweet was that experience for you guys, and why do you think it's become so iconic over the years? It is sad to see something that has been such a huge part of my life for MOST of my life have to end like that. We learned a lot on those early warped tours about how to put on a show, we gained a lot of fans that might not have otherwise seen us play, we made a lot of friends with bands we might not have ever crossed paths with too. We owe a lot to Kevin Lyman for letting us be a part of Warped.
It's been twenty years since the release of 'Why Do They Rock So Hard?', what do you remember the most about putting it together? I remember we recorded all the drum tracks on two inch tape and then the engineer, to edit them, actually CUT the tape with a razor blade and taped them back together! Things are a lot different now that everything is digital! Also, the horn players recorded all their tracks with the lights off and their pants also off. The good old days right?!
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour with Less Than Jake, and what can fans expect from the show? We are SO excited about this upcoming tour! We get to tour with some of our oldest and bestest friends! Less Than Jake, Zebrahead, Suburban Legends. The only band we'd be more excited to tour with would be Led Zepplin! I'm sure you're going to see a lot of guest appearances from the other bands, we'll all be watching each other play and I'm sure we won’t be able to resist running on stage with our friends!
How did the idea for the tour poster come together on this one, and who did you work with for it? Less Than Jake had that one made, I'm not sure who the artist is but I LOVE the Bill and Ted reference and I always love cartoon band pics!
What do you remember the most from coming over to tour in the UK for the first time? It was a cold, snowy winter in January of 2001, we had no idea what to expect and didn't know if ANYONE had ever heard of us, but all the gigs were packed and the UK ska fans just gave us the Interview with Aaron warmest welcome we had ever experienced! That's why we've continued to come back for 17 years now, you guys are the best!
Sorry about this, but we have to ask! Can we expect any new music from Reel Big Fish in the not too distant future? Yes! We are just finishing up our first new album in what, six years? But unfortunately it won’t be out in time for this tour. We might play a new song or two though, who knows!!
Looking back on 'Candy Coated Fury', is there anything that you learnt from creating that album, that you'll maybe take forward onto the next? I wouldn't say I especially learned any great lessons from ‘CCF’. Maybe the biggest lesson I learned was, NO MORE SIX Minute songs! Haha. I think I've continued to get better at what I do with each album, both songwriting wise and recording wise. We're so glad that the fans liked that album so much! We were so proud of it when it came out, and we are still!
What else can we expect to see from Reel Big Fish in 2018? Just lots of touring and hopefully getting that new album out by the end of the year!!
Interview with Phil
Was there a particular moment when you realised that you were going to be a career lasting band? Not really as you were totally immersed in everything that was going on with the band and you just lived for the day. You didn’t really see a time limit or even that you were writing the book so to speak, but it did, as we were lucky enough to have a number of songs that have stood the test of time that people still like hearing in the live arena today.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Living the Dream', and what does it mean to you? Well to be honest something that starts as your hobby and becomes your career, we do realise that we are in an enviable position as there are many people in jobs that they do not like just to pay the bills. The title also reflects what the fans say to us when we get to speak to them at gigs as they often say where have you been lately and we real off the countries we have played concerts in over the last few months and they say to you “Boy you are living the dream” and thanks to the fans we still are.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Living the Dream'? The first track ‘Grazed by Heaven’ is about sexual tension, ‘Living the Dream’ speaks for itself, ‘Take Away My Soul,’ is about the misuse of media sites to get back at the partner you have left, ‘Knocking at my Door,’ is about a guy losing his mind, ‘Rocks in the Road, has a positive message that everyone meets a rock in the road at some time in their life, but believing and being true to yourself coupled with positivity you will always come through the other end, ‘Waters Flowing’ is about a guy who plays his guitar at the water’s edge and attracts a crowd but one day goes missing, ‘It’s All Been Said’ is about what is written in the newspapers, ‘Goodbye to Innocence,’ is about schoolboy lust, ‘Falling under your Spell, is about one look across a crowded room and you lock eyes with someone, and you know it is going to lead on to so much more, and ‘Dreams of Yesteryear,’ is a reflection on how people hold thoughts that happened earlier in their life and it still gives them a glow and good feeling that helps them through any troubled times they may have now.
How did you end up working with Jay Ruston, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Jay was an absolute diamond to work with. We had heard his production and mixing work with ‘The Winery Dogs,’ ‘Stone Sour,’ ‘Anthrax’ ‘Europe’ and ‘Black Star Riders. What we liked about him was that he kept the essence of what each band are about and brought along a freshness to it. That was very important to us and he did that so very well. Our management Ace Trump & Adam Parsons of Siren Management had used him on their artists before and they said that the end result always exceeded what they thought the end result would be, so he came highly recommended.
You've released the music video for 'Grazed by Heaven', can you tell us about how this track in particular came together? This track was written by our bass player Dave Rimmer and Jeff Scott Soto who now sings with Sons of Apollo. Before joining Heep Davey was a huge fan, so he wanted to capture the energy of one of our songs ‘Between Two Worlds’ and the title track on ‘Wake the Sleeper,’ and I think he did that very well. As Davey had completely finished the music he then worked on a melody and lyrics with Jeff and that is what you hear, and it is one rockin’ opener. The video is really cool, and it incorporates a lot of live shots of the band playing live.
What was the most challenging track on 'Living the Dream' to put together, and why? To be honest there wasn’t any difficult or challenging tracks to record as it all went smoothly. We recorded it in 19 days and we had a further 2 weeks booked, but we didn’t need it. We record as a band in the studio, so we virtually get a full backing track in one take. Then Jay insisted that with each song we kind of try and finish it before we move on to another song. We would go straight into guitar/organ solos and any embellishments we feel need to be done, then we would get the lead vocal and harmonies nailed. It is a very quick way of working and that way you never lose the feel and momentum of the song.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can the attending fans expect? We cannot wait to get out and tour ‘Living the Dream’ as we still have the same passion for our music as we have always had. We are very proud of our history and we are aware some of the audience want to hear the old classics like ‘July Morning,’ ‘Lady in Black’ and ‘Easy Livin’ etc so we are always happy to play those songs and they will sit beside some of the tracks off of ‘LTD’ and we may even visit some older tracks so that it is a journey through our career from our first album ‘...Very 'Eavy ...Very 'Umble’ up to ‘Living the Dream.’
What else can we expect to see from Uriah Heep in 2018? We will be out on the road from mid-October to mid-December, so it will be two months of touring Europe. Then we pick up more European dates mid-January up to March and then on to Japan! We’ve played concerts in 61 countries so there is a lot of touring going on!
Interview with Marcus
You took a bit of a break at the start of the year. So how important was that for you, and how do you think it helped maybe "re-charge" the band? I think it's important to re-connect with what you are doing, both personally and artistically. Constantly being on the road leaves very little time to focus on writing and enjoying music. It also means you're away from your loved ones for long periods of time. All of that rolled up into one can be draining. We found ourselves rushing to complete music with 'Node' and 'Mesmer' with the touring schedule that surrounded them, and though we are happy with how both albums turned out, there's always the question, "What if we had more time to try this or that?" So we're making sure to give ourselves that extra bit of freedom.
With your latest single 'Vultures' you've said that "The main message is not having to live up to someoneâ€™s expectations". So can you elaborate on that as well as maybe what this track in particular was like to put together? It's no secret that when I joined the band, there was a lot of noise. A whole bunch of people thought they knew better. Throughout that, I always stayed positive and just tried to do my job as best I could. We have been so lucky to have ongoing support from new and old fans, we still get to do what we love and that's all that matters. 'Vultures' goes out to the people who are still stuck in the past, still trying to tell us who we should be and what we should sound like.
You worked with Drew Fulk, Dave Petrovic, "Nolly" Getgood, Chris Blancato on the track. So what do you think they all brought to the process? We put together the supergroup for ‘Vultures’. Drew Fulk is a creative mastermind. He threw us endless ideas but also didn't try and overshadow any of our own. Chris Blancato is an old friend and actually assisted with engineering the original 'Rot' single. He's super underrated and someone who knows exactly how we work. He really helped us nail the instrumental performances on 'Vultures'. Dave Petrovic is someone I've known for a long time. He worked on one of my first EPs with an older band almost 10 years ago. I loved working with him then and still do now. He's someone I've always felt comfortable with but someone who I know will push me for the best performance. We were so lucky to have such talented people working on this and Nolly just knew exactly how to tie it all together.
Looking back on 'Mesmer', how happy are you with the album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Northlane? I'm still incredibly proud of ‘Mesmer’. For me, that was when I really started to feel comfortable in my position, I finally felt like I had my own voice. I can look back and pick out little things I'd like to change but overall, that album means a lot to me.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Mesmer' at the moment, and why? ‘Citizen’ is always fun. The energy is non-stop in that song. ‘Heartmachine’ has also been getting a crazy reaction lately!
What do you think you'll take from the creative process of putting 'Mesmer' together, going forward as a band? I think the biggest thing we took away from recording 'Mesmer' was to be more open with each other both with sharing your own ideas and also being critical to others. We all want what's best as a group, so it’s important to be open, encouraging but also to put your foot down when you're passionate about an idea.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? We absolutely LOVE coming back to the UK. It's home away from home. We're always treated so well and the fans always go crazy! We'll be mixing up the set with old and new songs. We want to make sure it’s a new experience for old and new fans alike!
What do you remember the most from heading over to tour the UK for the first time ever? I just remember being terrified. It was my first tour with Northlane, my first time travelling overseas and we were playing the Roundhouse in London opening for Parkway Drive. I had never played to that many people prior to that tour. I don't remember a whole lot of that tour actually. I was just in shock!
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? Playing main stage at Download only two years after our first appearance, that was surreal! Download was always a festival I grew up wishing I could play one day, so when that happened, I was blown away. There are so many other occasions, Slam Dunk Festival, any tour we have done with Hellions, we just love being in the UK!
What else can we expect to see from Northlane in 2018? Besides Never Say Die Festival in November, our year is pretty quiet. We're playing a new festival back home in December called Good Things Festival. We're going to take the rest of this time to rest, re-coop and get ready for a big 2019 which I'm sure will also see us coming back through the UK.
Interview with Tom
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? This year has been very busy for us with releasing our new record ‘Eternal Nightmare’ but I’d say the biggest part of the year for us so far has been Warped Tour! It was my first time on Warped and the band’s fourth time. The reactions were absolutely insane. Going into the first show we had zero clue how the fans would react to me since the departure of AK. It was a very amazing surprise.
How bittersweet was it to be on the final Warped Tour, and why do you think the festival has become so iconic? It’s been very bittersweet but we hope Kevin has something up his sleeve for Warped in the future! I grew up watching the bands grow on Warped Tour and become these massive artists. I’m just happy I was able to experience it before it was gone. I reallllllllly hope there is something new and or people realize how much of a gap in music this festival will leave and support future tours.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Eternal Nightmare', and what does it mean to you? This record is a conglomerate of emotion and feeling but we agreed most on the the name because of what the record portrays. This band went through hell leading up to and during the recording process. It seemed fitting and we will continue on no matter what.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Eternal Nightmare'? The record is about struggling with addiction of any magnitude. Everyone in today’s society deals with it in some form or another. It doesn’t always have to be drugs or alchohol. People struggle with a wide variety of issues.
How did the music video for 'Hostage' come together, and can you tell us about the meaning behind that track in particular? The video came together with the band bouncing ideas of each other until our producer pieced it all together. This time the band was very fortunate to have a producer who we felt read our minds and executed it perfectly. It’s always a gamble with music videos. A lot of people know how to film and use video editing software but not everyone can put it together artistically to make it exciting. We scored!
What was it like to work with Drew Fulk and Joshua Travis, and how would you say they helped shape 'Eternal Nightmare'? Working with both Josh and Drew has been nothing short of tremendous and we plan on doing more with them in the future! They helped bring a new excitement to the table for us which lacked on previous records. We recommend any band going into the studio to have people like them who will push your limits while also bringing new ideas in.
What was the most challenging song to put together on 'Eternal Nightmare' and why? For me the hardest song to write was ‘The Wolf’! the timing is so crazy! This also being my first CG record with the band it took some getting use to. The members of the band and producer were very helpful and the band was excited. The vocals were a huge collaboration on this record so everyone went away happy.
How did you end up becoming a part of Chelsea Grin then? I have been a friend of the band for a long time and the band thought what better fit for the roll than a close friend! CG are not the type of band that will cut corners and try and just put someone there the fans might like. The band wanted someone they knew they could be brothers with and bring a fresh sound to the table.
What do you think you’ve brought to the band, and maybe to 'Eternal Nightmare' overall? I bring a heavier and more angry feel to the music and only plan on continuing to do so! CG first became popular to some by being crushing and extremely heavy and we don’t plan on switching.
Leading on from this, how would you say the sound of Chelsea Grin has grown/changed since the release of 'Self Inflicted'? The direction of CG will definitely grow darker with time! The outlet of emotions that comes with that feels natural and it’s when we are at our best.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Self Inflicted'? ‘Skin Deep’ has been a blast to play live! People love to wig off to that song. It was weird at first playing a song I didn’t help write but after two months on Warped I feel fully connected with these songs and fans.
What else can we expect to see from Chelsea Grin in 2018? You can expect us to hit Europe in the fall with Oceano, Khubali Kahn, Enterprise Earth and the US after with Whitechapel! Our headliner in Europe coming up is something you do not want to miss. It will be the band’s longest headlining sets to date.
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 came off Warped Tour, and apart from every show being amazing, the best part was getting home to my family. It’s the longest tour we do these days, and it took a toll on my 2 year old that I was eager to try and amend as soon as I could. I have too many good memories from the tour to really pick one anyway, so there you go.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Misery', and what does it mean to you? I came up with the title long before we were finished writing it. The lyrics I was writing, and the way I was feeling, were both major contributors to the title.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Misery’? Influences? None that I can think of directly. As far as the themes go, it’s pretty much a road map of my descent into a very dark and horrible place, mentally. Being freshly diagnosed with bipolar disorder has given me space to reflect on what was happening mentally, which is nice; while I was going through it however, it was like a living hell, and the songs are a direct reflection of that.
How did you end up working with Matt Squire, and how would you say he helped shape the album? We always have a group of producers that Ahren and Dan put together, then we have producers that the label puts forward, and we (mainly Ahren and Dan) make a call from there. We needed a change this time around, and Matt was the perfect fit for us. He really breathed some life into our songs, and helped to shape the album and get it to exactly where we wanted it. It’s definitely the most positive recording experience for me thus far, I really enjoyed it.
What was the hardest track to put together on 'Misery', and why? ‘The Gifthorse’. My friend Shane Collins committed suicide earlier this year, and that song is an ode to him.
How did the album artwork for 'Misery' come together, and what does it mean to you? We wanted to juxtapose the idea, or content of the album, with the sound of the album; visually I think we did a great job on the front cover and back cover as it is a “nice” image of a balloon, but it also looks fairly depressing. Inside the booklet are photos I took Interview with Joel while I was recording the vocals in Toronto, being that they are mine, it is possible to see where my head was at while I was there.
How did the cinematic music video for 'Ivy (Doomsday)' come together, and what was it like to work on? The three clips came together in 3 1/2 days, and it was arduous, stressful, and also the most fun we’ve ever had making music videos. As far as the idea goes, it’s one I’ve had for quite some time however loosely, and we were finally given the space and budget to create it.
Looking back on 'This Could Be Heartbreak', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of The Amity Affliction? Another stepping stone for us like all our albums are. I’m equally proud of that album, it was the final note in that era for us, and ‘Misery’ is the first note for us in the next chapter of the band.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? An emotional live show, like they always are. We pour ourselves out while we’re on stage, and I think people resonate with that. I love playing shows, I really don’t know what I would do without it as an outlet.
What else can we expect to see from The Amity Affliction in 2018? It’s a secret.
Photo credit: Patrick Deters
Interview with Jeph
Was there a particular moment where you realised that you had the potential to make a career out of music? When we were flown out to meet with different labels just because of our super rough sounding 8 track recordings!
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? Everyday on tour is a highlight for me, traveling and playing music with my friends and inspiring other people is a very fulfilling experience.
You played on the final Vans Warped Tour. So how was that whole experience for you guys? It was great. We have known the people behind the scenes for a long time and it was incredible being a part of the whole tour and being able to say goodbye.
Looking back on 'The Canyon', how happy are you with the response to the album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of The Used? We put a lot into making ‘The Canyon’, worked our asses off, bled our hearts out. We really focused on jamming and writing together in a live setting. More like we did with the first record.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'The Canyon', and why? We have played ‘Over And Over Again’, ‘Rise Up lights’, ‘The Nexus’ ‘Selfies in Aleppo’, ‘About You’, ‘Broken Windows’, ‘Funeral Post’, ‘The Quiet War’ and maybe another but I can’t remember right now. They were all very fun to play, we enjoy playing all of our songs old and new. Set lists for each tour usually consists of a couple songs per album and then we switch out one or two songs per show just to keep it fresh for us. So you never know what you’re going to hear until that day.
For 'The Canyon', how did you end up working with Ross Robinson, and how did he help shape the album? We’ve been wanting to work with Ross since our first record. He has an incredible outlook on music and recording music. He focuses on the vibe of the song first. I can’t say enough positive things about my personal experience with Ross, definitely my ideal setting for recording bass.
On this record there's "no more than three takes being used on each song", so how did this idea come about, and how did it effect the creative process for you guys? For vocals that’s correct but that’s not exactly true for the music side. The point is we left mistakes in because we wanted to focus on the vibe of the song and the feeling first before the ability.
How did the music video for 'Rise Up Lights' come together, and what was it like to work on? We’ve been working with Lisa Mann for a while now, she directed ‘The Bird and the Worm’, ‘Handsome Awkward’, ‘Blood On My Hands’, ‘Over And Over Again’, ‘Rise Up lights’ and ‘The Nexus’. Also it was great having the incredible William Yong be in another video, he stars in ‘Over And Over Again’, ‘Rise Up lights’ and ‘The Nexus’. If you get a chance check out the ‘The Nexus’ video. Lisa and William made it for us as a surprise. Pretty incredible.
What has Joey Bradford brought to the world of The Used? He’s a great guitar player/bass player, incredible singer and an extremely nice dude. His quote says it all “Be a dude” He’s definitely brought a more “Rock” vibe to The Used and it’s something we’ve been missing for a while. Can’t wait to make an album with him.
Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? I love playing in Europe and the UK. We’ve played so many great and incredible shows over here it’s really hard to pick from. Reading and Leeds are a fun time but I love playing the smaller more personal shows, where we have less of a time limit and more time to mess around on stage. Our shows are fun that way, we all love playing live and you can tell.
What else can we expect from The Used in 2018 and beyond? A new record, we’ll start writing soon.
Interview with Tim
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 put out the album in May. We did some shows around that. We did like a bunch of in stores and a few festivals. Then we had a small break in the first half of the summer. Then we went to Japan and Singapore, then we finished up with a few weeks of UK festivals and club shows. Yeah, I think my highlight so far, was playing Fuji Rock festival in Japan. That was really amazing. Also, the very first shows coming back were great. We did Live at Leeds festival, and we were playing a few new songs live for the first time. That’s always a real kind of adrenaline rush, where you have new songs in the set, and you’re trying them for the first time. It’s been cool. Some of the club shows were really fun, as they were really sweaty, and small. We had a good contrast of big outdoor festivals, and small shows. We did the BBC Big Weekend in Belfast, and we played on the Titanic Slipways (Where the Titanic was built). Damian O'Neill and Mickey Bradley from The Undertones got up and sang ‘Buzzkill’ and ‘Teenage Kicks’ with us. So that was another pretty awesome highlight.
So a nice generic question now. How did you get to the album title 'Islands', and what does it mean to you? During the time I was writing the album I was travelling a lot, seeing a lot of islands. It sort of started at the end of a Japense tour, where I went to Naoshima. After that, I just found myself drawn to islands during the whole time I was writing it. I went to Mallorca, wrote there. I went to Santorini. I went to a small island off the coast of Dublin, called Lambay. It was all recorded on the island Manhattan in New York. So I just feel like islands tied it all together really. The story of that year.
Why did you pick those islands in particular? I guess I’d heard interesting things about a few of them. The Japanese islands had become uninhabited almost. Then some art foundations had moved in and built some incredible galleries. Just amazing architecture and artwork. There were just a lot of interesting and experimental things going on there, so that drew me there. When I went to Mallorca I went because of a couple of reasons. One of which being the poet Robert Graves who lived in a village called Deià. So I was always intrigued and wanted to go there. The Irish island was really interesting, it’s owned by friends of friends, and there’s maybe eight people living there year round, sometimes six. It’s got a really interesting history. For something so close to the mainland, it’s very isolated.
It must of been nice to visit these places, and not actually be on tour! Yeah, when you’re touring you’re just dipping in and out of places, you just get a small flavour. So it was great getting to spend a bit more time. I think I’ve done something like 26 Japenese tours over the years. However, I’ve never taken the time to see any of Japan properly, so it was great the last time as I finally did it.
For this album you said that "we knew that every song we were starting was going to end up on the record". So can you tell us about how exciting that was to be working that way, and how the creative process compares to anything you've done before? It was great, because I’d written a lot of songs. We probably pulled it down from 100 songs down to the twelve that we chose. Once we cut it down to those, we were then certain that those were the tracks. In the past we would always record at least four more. As we’d never be certain about some songs, we didn’t know how some would turn out. With this, we just had a real confidence that every one was really great, and that it worked as a complete piece. That’s the first time that that’s ever really happened to us, as we always just second guess ourselves. With this one it just felt really clear to us. There was a good feeling when working on it, as we were very confident right from the start.
Can you tell us about what it is actually like to produce your own music, and maybe how that process has changed for you over the years? Early on, we didn’t really understand how recording and studios worked. I was only really learning how to write songs. Our first producers would just be in charge of all of the sonic side of things and engineering. And getting involved with helping us arrange structures of songs. Editing them down, and making them the most concise and effective. I guess over the years we learned the whole technical side of recording. We got really good at arranging as a band. It’s nice having someone else there, with a strong opinion, who is encouraging. However, we’re able to handle it ourselves nowadays. We’ve learnt a lot of tricks over the years.
With this album you also had additional production from Claudius Mittendorfer again, so can you maybe tell us how you originally met, and what he brought to 'Islands'? When we mixed our album ‘Meltdown’ in LA he was there. The guy who mixed it Rich Costey, Claudius was his assistant. Rich is one of the best mixers in the world. Then a couple of years later we moved to New York. We were looking for someone to engineer ‘Twilight of the Innocents’. We wanted to self-produce, and that was the first album that we produced ourselves. Claudius had just moved to New York then. I think he’s around the same age as us. At that time, he was young and upcoming, and served a really good apprenticeship. We tried him out, and first of all discovered that he was an incredible engineer, and then we gave him a shot on some mixes on the next project, which was the A–Z Series. He was just incredible, and his mixes were amazing. From that point on he has just mixed everything that we’ve done. We’ve shared a studio with him since 2006. His additional production helped shape some of the sounds on the record. He’s good for feedback say with recording drums, he helps us record those, and edit stuff etc. He’s very creative in his mixes. Everything takes a huge leap from the raw recording to his mix. He really transforms everything. He’s the kind of guy that you can just go to. Any time I’ve got a question about something he has always got a good idea or solution.
How did Damian O'Neill and Mickey Bradley end up joining you on 'Buzzkill', and what were they like to work with? They were great, I’ve known Damian since sometime in the 90s. We got introduced at a dinner, and became really good friends. He’s played with us quite a lot over the years. We once did a joint gig together, where we played a bunch of Ash and Undertones songs. Just the two of us in the Windmill in Brixton. He’s played with Ash like 6-7 times over the years. I hadn’t seen him in a while until last November. I was doing an acoustic gig for alzheimers. The Undertones were headlining that gig. I’d just been finishing ‘Buzzkill’ around that time. I was watching from the side of the stage, and I was just saying to myself “Oh no, have we ripped off their backing vocal style!” The call and response backing vocals that they are so good at. I just realised it. So I was like “Oh man, do I own up to them, and confess, or should I ask them to be on it?” So I asked them to do it, and they were totally up for it. John O'Neill from The Undertones actually engineered it, they recorded it at their house. It just took a few weeks for them to take a day off from tour. Then they recorded it and sent it back. So then it was great when we actually got to play at the Biggest Weekend with them. Just hearing it live. We practised a bit backstage with the guitars unplugged. We got up there on stage, and just thought that it sounded so brilliant with them in the song. The two of them have a very distinctive sound. You really hear the Northern Irish accent as well, which I love in the singing.
How did the ‘1977’ tour impact the current creative process of Ash? It was strange going back, but it was kind of easy. It’s very easy to play that stuff just because all of those songs were in our set for the longest time at the start of our band. They all kind of came back really quickly. I just patched us into our early style. With the A-Z Series, we’d been trying to find a different style with every song. Doing the ‘1977’ tour helped reset us, and just be like “It’s OK to play in our older style if the songs are good” So I just kind of focused more on writing really good songs, because that’s kind of how 'Kablammo!' shaped up, by just trying to write songs that were really good as a three piece live. That continued into half of the stuff on 'Islands'. Then the other half of it was just trying to find new things. Like with ‘Did Your Love Burn Out’ and ‘Incoming Waves’. I feel like ‘Annabel’ and ‘Buzzkill’ could of easily been on ‘1977’. They stand alongside those tracks.
Talking of the creative process of Ash, I wanted to ask if by doing your solo material, then has that had any impact on the way you put together music for the band? Yeah, it made me appreciate our work process quite a lot. When I was making a solo record I was (of course!) really on my own. I was so used to bringing half finished songs into the band, then we’d play them, and then I'd just know what needs to be done. You can bring in like a half written scrap, once you start playing it you could tell if it was good or not. With the solo record, I had to record everything and layer it up, over dub things quite a lot until I had an idea of if it was sounding good or not. Whether it worked. I was also trying to find a new kind of sound. I was writing a lot more on piano. It was definitely a really different process. So when I got back to working with Ash, and being with the guys in the rehearsal room, that was quite a relief actually. Just seeing that it had worked for so long, for a reason. We’ve got all those years of experience, and we work together really quickly.
So, how did the music video for ‘Confessions In The Pool’ come together, and if possible, can you tell us about the meaning behind that track in particular? We knew that we wanted the music video to be kind of fun, because the song has a fun feel to it. Our original idea was a pool party thing, I don’t know! We were brainstorming a bit, and then we thought it would be fun if there were priests in it. Our management got treatments from a bunch of different directors, but we knew that we wanted it to be sort of crazy. Then at the last minute the director came in with a treatment, and we were like “Yeah, this sounds ridiculous, and a lot of fun.” It reminds me a lot of the Life of Brian. Then we got to make a small cameo dancing in it. It’s quite far away from the meaning of the song, but it’s an entertaining video. You just want to keep watching to see what happens at the end! I just got back to New York from touring. It was kind of hard being home. My friend who had also gone through a bad break up said “Let’s just go to Miami.” So we went to Miami for a weekend, there were just a lot of crazy pool parties, having fun. It’s a bit of a love song to a friend, who bailed me out at a hard time. Running away for a second when things are really rough. A bit of escapism.
I wanted to throw in a question about the A-Z series you did! How did the idea for that come about, and can you tell us about what that whole huge project was like to work on? I think it kept things fresh for us at the time, when we wanted to do something different. The music industry was really in turmoil at the time, and it was hard to know how career’s could be sustained at that time without record sales coming in, the money coming in from that. As that used to be the main thing. We felt like taking the chance, and doing something completely different. We’ve enjoyed doing singles a lot. When we were in school we didn’t have time to record a full album, so in 1995 we just put out singles, like one every few months. Until we could actually record a full album. I enjoyed that time, you could change people's idea of a band every few months. I guess that was part of the idea. I also liked when The Wedding Present did twelve singles in one year. So I thought that we could do a more extreme version of that, so we did 26 singles in a year! On our own label. We had our own studio, so we could be our own factory and just experiment a lot. Without worrying about the clock ticking. It was exciting, as we’d done a lot albums in a row. Album, tour, album, tour, for a long time. I think we were starting to feel a bit repetitive at that time. So it was nice to have the freedom of making singles and not worrying about them fitting together. It was great. I’m really proud of the project. It was definitely the hardest we’ve ever worked as a band, and it’s a really interesting body of work.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Can’t wait! I think we’re in good form at the minute. We’ve been playing about five new songs from ‘Islands’ over the summer. They fit in so well with the old stuff. They’re really brilliant to play. We’re getting a great reaction. I’m excited to add more songs from ‘Islands’ to the set. We’ve got a US tour coming up, we’re going to start adding the more stranger songs from the album to the set, as I’m quite intrigued to see how they go. We’ve got some nice messages from fans, people saying that they’d love it if we played all of ‘Islands’, things like that. We always try to strike a balance of like classics and new material. I think it’s going to be brilliant.
What else can we expect to see from Ash in 2018? Possibly a new single next year. We are getting towards being halfway through recording a new album. I’m just not sure if it’s going to come out next year or early the following year at the minute. We’re just going to keep the momentum going. It would be nice if the album came out next year!
rview with Tim
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights? We played a Minor Threat cover with Brian Baker at Rock Am Ring in Germany in front of about 80,000 people which was pretty amazing both personally and professionally! Touring North America with Deftones was a blast. We finally played Iceland on this run which was a lot of fun, we got to snowmobile to a glacier and hang out in the Blue Lagoon. I got to work with Tom Morello and Steve Aoki on a new song out in October on Tom’s new record, and we finally put out a photo book chronicling our touring from the last four years or so.
Looking back on 'Wolves', how happy have you been the response to this album so far, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Rise Against? ‘Wolves’ was designed to be a call to action in a tumultuous time in history and I feel like it found the audience it was intended to find. It’s been great to get feedback from the fans and see how they have interpreted the songs. I think it’s another great chapter in the Rise Against story. The songs have lived well in the last couple years.
So, how did the idea for ‘The Ghost Note Symphonies Vol 1' come together? We have bounced the idea around for years and the fans have asked us for something like this for awhile. We never ruled it out and we finally found time and a budget to do it. So we spent about 12 days at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, CO with Bill Stevenson, Jason Livermore, Chris Beeble, and Andrew Berlin to put some songs together. Honestly, it started as a “bonus track” idea to repackage ‘Wolves’ with a couple extra songs. We had never done something like this before and we didn’t want to bite off more than we could chew so we only promised about five songs. But that snowballed into 10 songs and all of a sudden we had more than bonus tracks and more than an EP. We had an album.
What was the process like, when you had to decide which tracks you wanted to go on the album? Deciding which songs to perform was tough. We knew we wanted to highlight some of the ‘Wolves’ record, but I was also excited to dust off some of the older songs and lyrics that many of our fans might not have heard. I’m still really proud of the stuff we wrote when we were younger, and I think some of those songs deserve more attention. So there’s a little bit of everything on there. The process started with me and a guitar. I would just sing and move the capo around the neck and play with the tempos and find the best way to perform the song. Bill, our producer, would guide me through the process and together we hammered out a blueprint for the song. Once we had a skeleton we would send it across the hall to the string guys. We would bat around some ideas and decide what parts to replicate, subtract, add, whatever. Everyone would kind of collaborate. ‘Voices Off Camera’ on piano was the brain child of Andrew and Chris. I played ‘Faint Resemblance’ on a ukelele that I had just learned how to play.
What song did you find the most rewarding to put together in this stripped back way, and why? I think I really love ‘Faint Resemblance’. It’s a great song with lyrics that felt classic and to hear it on a ukelele was definitely something new and re-imagined. I think this version has re-introduced or introduced the song to a lot of people.
Alternatively, what was the most challenging song to put together on ‘The Ghost Note Symphonies Vol 1', and why? After I changed the key of ‘Savior’, some of the parts had to be played on different places on the fretboard so that got tricky.
How did you end up working with Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore, and how would you say they helped shape the release? Jason and Bill have been instrumental in the career of Rise Against. We’ve made five records with them and their role in the Rise Against story cannot be overstated. Going back to them was a no-brainer. They are intimately familiar with many of these songs as they were there at their creation in many instances. They helped with all the minute decisions about instrumentation and tempo and key and mood.
Is there anything that you learnt from the creative process of 'The Ghost Note Symphonies Vol 1' that you'd like to take forward onto the next release maybe? We had a lot of fun with the different instruments, I’d love to go even further down that road.
How did the artwork for 'The Ghost Note Symphonies Vol 1' come together, and what does it mean to you? A company called Morning Breath did the artwork and the artist was playing off the title with sound waves themed artwork.
As a political band, what should our readers really be aware of right now, that they might not know about? Now is the time to engage. We need people who refuse to bury their heads in the sand. Progressive ideas around climate change, heathcare, gun control, immigration, police brutality and free elections are all under attack. Voting will make a difference. Text the word RISE to 668366 to see how you can help.
What else can we expect to see from Rise Against in 2018? ‘The Mourning In Amerika’ tour with AFI and Anti-Flag continues in September with Midwest and West coast dates. Check out our two new B-sides ‘Megaphone’ and ‘Broadcast (Signal) Frequency’ and our photo book ‘WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN’ by photographer Rob Fenn. Keep an eye out for my collaboration with Tom Morello and Steve Aoki for Tom’s new record. I also guested on the new Sick Of It All record out later this year. As we approach a 20 year mark, we are talking about a box set of all of our records, stay tuned for info about that.
Interview with Joel
So, how did you get to the album title 'Generation Rx', and what does it mean to you? The title refers to the rise in mental health issues coupled with the opioid epidemic in the world right now. We grew up in “Generation X”, and now the kids are growing up in a very different world than we did. The music industry has always influenced culture and the youth is ultimately in charge of what’s hot in the music world. There needs to be a wake up call to what artists are saying because kids hang on every word their favorite artists say and we are hoping to say something that offers some hope with this album.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Generation Rx’? The title of the album reflects the themes very well. There’s a lot of lyrics about self reflection, mental health, addiction and how people cope with these issues. Influence wise, I think we each bring something different to the table. I really tried to think about the bands I loved when I was first learning guitar and made a lasting impression on me. Plus new bands that inspire me. I love BMTH, Pvris, Sylar and Issues. Older bands like Linkin Park, Deftones, Korn, and Incubus.
You said that “At the beginning of the year, we were reflecting a lot,” so can you elaborate on maybe how that time effected the creative process for 'Generation Rx’? I think we do a lot of reflecting these days, haha. We are all grown men with families and a different outlook on the world. Music is changing and so is the industry and we have to find our place in it. Personally, I think music is in an awesome place. We had to think about what kind of album GC needed to make right now and something darker and heavier felt right.
You've said that "This is the album we’ve been waiting 15 years to create.", so can you tell us about that, and why this album is so important? We all listen to different bands but one thing we all love is heavy music. We’ve always wanted to go a little more aggressive with our music but were afraid the fans and the label wouldn’t be into it. GC is known for big feel good pop rock songs. So that’s what we did. Deep down we always wanted to make a record like this and I think it resulted in us giving 110% and making an amazing record!
What made you want to release 'Actual Pain' first, and can you tell us about how that track in particular came together? ‘Actual Pain’ seemed like the best song to bridge the new sound with what our fans were used to. The lyrics were really deep and personal on that one and we knew it would set the tone.
How did you end up working with Zakk Cervini? Zakk was the co-engineer on ‘Youth Authority’. He’s young and super talented. We knew that we wanted to work with him again. Bands need to take a chance on up and coming talent and give new talent a shot. We wanted this to be Zakk’s first project as the producer at the helm and he killed it! He loves dark, heavy stuff but can produce pop as well. He totally saw the vision we had and helped shape the sound.
How did the artwork for 'Generation Rx' come together, and what do you want it to mean to your fan base? The skull make up was an idea that came up for the ‘Actual Pain’ video. We shot a few shots of us in the make up just to have. When we saw them it just looked very iconic and we decided to use it for the cover. It really felt like it fit the vibe of the songs.
Looking back on 'Youth Authority', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Good Charlotte? I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. We were coming off a long break where we weren’t even sure we were going to do GC anymore. We got in the studio and everyone was vibing together and we were happy to be together making music again. We made the record fast and I don’t think we were as deeply invested emotionally as we are on ‘Generation RX’. It was very well received with fans, so that’s great of course! But I wonder if the excitement was more that we were back vs the actual album itself. Regardless, it was the right album at the right time for us!
How excited are you for your upcoming UK show in London, and what can attending fans expect? We seriously love playing in the UK! There’s always such a scene for rock music in the UK that doesn’t exist anywhere else. We are doing our biggest UK headline show to date, so we are really excited! We always bring a lot of energy and try to make sure we mix up the set to play a little of everything!
What do you remember the most from heading over to the UK and touring for the first time? The fans have style over there! I remember looking at the fans lining up and everyone has coloured hair and tattoos and representing their favourite bands. They live for the concerts there and the passion is real. I loved walking around and looking at how old everything feels there. Honestly, when my friends ask where my favourite place to tour is I always say the UK.
What else can we expect to see from Good Charlotte in 2018? We are in full on GC mode. No more time off, we are focused on putting out new music and playin lots of shows! It feels like just the beginning of a lot of great things for us and our fans!
Interview with Travis
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 did a tour throughout the US with Taking Back Sunday, and The Story So Far. In the summer. That was through July and August. I’d say that the highlight of that, was the suprise and boost of confidence with the amount of people who came out, who were all supportive. We chose to play a lot of bigger venues throughout the US. Amphitheatres etc. It was incredible how many people came out. Just doing the Canadian shows right now, going across Canada and the same thing is happening, as we haven’t been here for a while. There’s excitement surrounding the couple of songs that people have heard. It’s just a real boost to get back at it. Then the fact of being back with the guys and performing. We miss our families but this is the other family that we’re with!
So you've returned to The Amory Wars concept on this album with the story focusing on characters Nostrand and Nia, however, if possible, can you elaborate on what we can expect lyrically from the story that runs through the album? As you’ve probably read it’s a bit like a Sci-Fi Bonnie and Clyde story. It takes these three characters that you start with, they basically perform a bank heist that goes wrong. Two of the characters have this deep love that runs through the storyline. They get separated as one is thought to be killed, and it’s just basically as the other characters are caught. It’s this journey through the justice system in the future, if you will. I don’t want to give away too much on that. Then there’s some twists and curves through the story. The love interest carries as a theme as well as many other things that go on. Jealousy, etc. That’s basically the theme of the record, if I tell you the rest of it, then I’d give away the rest of the story! Throughout the record, each part of the story is fully involved with what’s going on storyline wise. It doesn’t jump away from that one bit. Which it never really has when we do our concept records. I think this record has the best balance of real life experience and concept, if you will. That’s how I feel.
What songs gave you the first initial vision of the album? There were a handful of songs from the last couple of years that Claudio had, that we’d go back and forth on. To find his footing on how he wanted to go storyline wise, and even just the overall vibe. Working with that, there were a few songs that I would work on, and have melodies, and stuff for for quite some time, and live with. Nothing really stuck until we were in the studio, doing the album together, melody wise. We went in with the first two songs, one song was ‘Toys’ and the other song was ‘Unheavenly Creatures’. We went in, and we did those two songs as an experiment, to self-produce. When we got done and had a rough mix of those two songs, we showed the label. Roadrunner were so excited with how it came out, that they went ahead and gave us the blessing to self-produce. We went up into Applehead where we’d worked before. We were very comfortable. We worked with our engineer, who is also incredible on the production end (Chris Bittner). We were in there for about 5-6 weeks, and we finished the whole record. That’s really how it went. We just centered in on every aspect of each song, and its melody. Of course Claudio had a very distinct vision of how he wanted things to be, but when it came to adding and doing other melodies, then the studio magic really came into play.
In the press release Claudio says "to continue a concept for your discography can be a little bit intimidating", so what do you think about that, and how do you go about keeping the music fresh, so for example anyone could just pick up your latest album and start from there? I think that the freshness comes from an aspect of us being hungry. We hadn’t done anything creatively together in 2-3 years, as a band recording. Since ‘The Color Before the Sun’. So we were all very hungry to get involved in something. I think that that comes out in the record with each sound and melody. Any song that somebody picks to first get involved in, that they’re going to kind of get hooked on hearing that. It’s interesting that we released ‘The Dark Sentencer’ first, being the first song. But I think that if we released any song, that somebody would totally get on board, that likes the music. They’d be on board with the album, and then they'd be prone to go from the beginning. In order, or whatever. I think each song stands on its own to grip somebody. At least I hope so.
'Old Flames' depicts the album cover, how did this important track come together? When Claudio wrote it he showed it to me and was just like “This is what I developed the theme on.” He developed a theme, and the majority of the ideas for the story came about from just that song and that melody. So therefore it became a very important song to add to for the rest of us. To get a particular vibe. Even guitar part wise. Everything had to be in addition to tell the story of what’s going on in that song. And also make it stand out, as like I said as its own song. That's strong enough for somebody not to even care about the concept, and just love the song in general, and all of its melodies. I think that we definitely made that happen. I think that it’s a very important song, because it set somewhat of a tone for Claudio in the first place, and then for the rest of us. I remember listening to it, and feeling like “OK, this is the vibe we’re beginning with.” That doesn’t mean that we didn’t carry go off into many other vibes that you can hear on the record, but it was a start as to where we were going to go from. It’s a home base.
So with Coheed the music normally comes first in the creative process, however, with this one Sanchez really wanted you invested in the story. He had concept artists put imagery together for you guys to have a look at. Do you think working that way has brought a different outcome to the album? Absolutely, it made me take a different approach to certain melodies. It gives you a different layer to what’s going on, as to opposed feeling like “Oh this is just a very strong/catchy chorus!” As I know there’s something else going on. You’d think that sometimes that gives you more borders, or restriction. In a lot of ways, it gives you less of that, because on certain songs I’d perform something really interesting in the backgrond, and you can relate it to something in the storyline. If you want to use your imagination that way. I will go back to say, that no matter what the song does come first. So whatever that be. On a song like ‘The Gutter’ with my guitar part in the chorus, I related it to something almost, very chaotic going on in the song. So trying to re-create that guitar wise but also note wise that it’s soothing enough to still make it a strong chorus. It’s thinking in that direction. Not wanting it to take away from the song, but wanting to add to the concept. It’s about finding the balance. It’s all about balance.
“This record has the best balance of real life experience and concept” Josh helped the approach of 'Queen of the Dark' by suggesting that it had a more Mad Max feel/environment to it. So can you tell us about that, and maybe how films influence the band? I can speak from a guitar perspective. It’s got a "reckless abandon" kind of thing going on in it. I definitely tried to embrace that. However, the Mad Max part of it was really those drums that we all kind of got involved with on the toms, to try and make it really thick. A really cinematic sound. It translated well. That’s a great example. Him throwing that movie out there. There’s this guitar melody that I’ve played a lot over the years, and it keeps turning up. It almost kind of imitates the melody from The Goonies. From when there was a certain suspenseful part in that. It just happens, I just do that. Then I’d be like oh, “That almost sounds like that, The Goonies or The NeverEnding Story sort of vibe.” That’ll happen because that’s where the mind frame is. We’ll use movies more as an example of how we want something to sound as opposed to another record. Of course there’ll be other albums that influence us. Like with a Thin Lizzy sound with the guitars, Iron Maiden or something. That happens, but there's a majority of it, where we’ll be like “Think of Close Encounters here!” Dropping in a movie theme as opposed to another album, or another artist.
You guys are of course known for your incredible guitar work, but for you, when you look at the album was there a song or maybe just a particular section of music that you maybe found really challenging to put together? There were a couple of challenging parts. I think the challenging times are when I come in guitar wise with something and everybody is like “Ah, that’s not what fits the best there.” That can be a big challenge, to just try and come up with something there, and work with everybody. That can almost be like the most rewarding thing, when you come in, and you have a melody or a guitar part and everyone’s like “That works! It’s perfect!” That’s just not always the case. Sometimes you come in, and it’s like “Wow, that’s great, but it’s not suiting what everybody feels is going to be the right thing for the song” Those can be the most challenging to come up with on the spot. Or just put your ego at the door, and say "What’s everybody hearing here, let’s work together." Then the other challenging thing is where there are songs that Claudio already has a guitar part on, where he has ideas of melody for me. When it comes to performing that, it can be a challenge to learn someone else's material. That can be challenging in itself. That’s not something that happens too often. However, it’s definitely there. I find that it makes me a better player though. To be able to master those kind of things. To perform them exactly how everybody wants to hear it.
Synthesizers have made more of a feature on this record than before. So, why do you think that is, and does it maybe help you see sequencing on a guitar in a completely different way as well? I think that synthesizers have slowly become more and more a part of the Coheed sound. It’s nothing new. They were there even on ‘The Second Stage Turbine Blade’. There’d be these synthesizers that creep in and out, and it was just the beginning of entertaining the idea of them being there. They played a little bit more of a crucial part with the writing, for Claudio in particular. He and I worked on a song, and I had a guitar part, and he would just start messing with the synthesizer to go alongside that. That created a major part of the verse, and then it created even what went into the chorus. That example of a song like that was ‘Night-Time Walkers’. It became a very keyboard driven song. So what started as just a simple guitar idea, turned into a full on keyboard song almost. So I think that that’s just another level of experimenting, and creating new sounds. There’s no boundary with that. The only reason there ever was when we were much younger is because we were young, and we didn’t know where we wanted to go. The band has just blossomed into being who we want to be as a unit and sound wise. We’ve blossomed into the process of no boundaries, if you will. Saying “Why should there be a boundary, we should be able to create whatever sound that we want, and figure it out later.”
With 'The Color Before the Sun' not really being a concept album, then what do you think that's brought to how you've approached creating music as Coheed & Cambria? For the lyrical side, Claudio was able to just kind of do the real life without any concept being there. Feeling liberated in a way, and just not feeling weighed down by his own concept, and missed it. As band members, and adding stuff in with the melody, we missed being able to take that approach that I explained before. Finding balance, and that challenge. It was almost like, coming home in a sense. Being wrapped in the concept.
So, how excited are your upcoming UK tour with CHON, and what can attending fans expect? Some new tunes! A mixed batch of songs that everybody is going to be excited about. Overall, just a fun time within the show. We put it all on the stage. We’re not going to stop doing that. We’re going to come over there, and do that. It’s been a while since we’ve been over there, for an extensive tour. We’re really looking forward to it. That goes back to what I said before. We’re hungry. We’re looking to come and have a good time.
Interview with Dan
So, how has your current tour been going, and what has it been like to be out on the road as Alkaline Trio once more? It’s felt awesome. We’ve done about eighteen shows so far. It’s been very fun. People have been very receptive to the new material. I feel like our shows have been bigger than they’ve ever been. We’re having a lot of fun. It’s not like we didn’t miss it. We all missed it.
What’s it been like to play and rehearse some of the new songs? Sometimes a little tricky. Especially with the way we wrote most of the record. On the spot in the studio, That sort of leaves a lot of room. You change stuff as you go, and you add things. So when it comes time to playing the material live, it’s like you’re re-learning the song all over again. Which is a cool and challenging thing. We look forward to it. We’ve only been playing a few of the new songs, but now that we have the record out then we are going to be working on a few more.
As you guys have all been so busy with your various side projects over the last couple of years, I wanted to ask, when did the idea of putting your new album 'Is This Thing Cursed?' together first come about? I’d say very early on this year. Maybe not long before we started recording. March/late February. It was when we first seriously started talking about writing and the idea of getting together for a new record. We were actually supposed to play a festival show in California in early March which we ended up cancelling, as Matt had throat surgery. That ended up getting moved around. Also in that time after the show, we were going to stay in California together and start writing. So when that show got cancelled, it sort of brought up the question about what are we going to do as far as writing. That’s when Matt and I/everyone were like f*ck it, we’ll just start in a few weeks, and see what happens. We won’t leave until we’ve got a record. If we can’t come up with anything. We’ll call it. We started coming up with stuff right away, and just having a lot of fun. We didn’t really want to leave the studio. But we had to move on.
It felt like 'Is This Thing Cursed?' came out of nowhere, there wasn't really any posts on socials of you guys working in the studio for the album. So was it maybe intentional to keep it slightly on the down low that you were making it? It was very intentional to keep it very on the down low. We hadn’t been together in a long time. We knew that we were sort of getting together in an almost spur of the moment type scenario. We didn’t want to put any pressure on ourselves. We just wanted to get together and write and see what happened. It ended up going really well. We just wanted to keep that pace going. So why mess with the vibe. Why mess with any of it. This is working, no one knows we’re here. The label knew that we were there, but they weren’t questioning us, or asking us to hear anything. They were just letting us work. They were excited, and that’s all that we needed to know. We were excited, having fun and being productive. So again, we didn’t want to ruin the vibe, or put any unnecessary pressure on ourselves. So until we were done writing, we didn’t even start hinting at the fact that we were together.
So looking at 'Is This Thing Is Cursed?', was there a particular song or moment where you maybe saw the initial vision of the album as a whole come together? Honestly it was hard to see the vision of the album come together, until I was home. Because everything happened quickly. We were working pretty furious hours. Like the mode for me, was just “What are we working on right now?” OK, this part for this one song. I can really on concentrate on a certain part, and making it as good as it can possibly be at this moment. So, that’s where my mindset was. So when I was finally home, and able to step back and listen to everything in succession. This is before we mixed it or anything. I just had a chance to sit back with rough versions of the songs, and then I was sort of able to piece things together. I was hearing new ideas for where some of the songs should go. That being said, there’s one song. The first song on the record, ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ was a track that I had written as more of a half song. I didn’t know where I wanted to go with it. I didn’t know if I wanted it to be super short, and then have it transition into something else. But it sort of established a tone for the record. Anyway, as soon as we started working on that song as a band we agreed that we should finish it. Matt was quick to say that “This should be the opener, and the name of the record.” So then from there we started toying with the idea of different concepts. That being the opener. That was kind of it, until we were done.
Leading on from that what made you want to release 'Blackbird' first, and can you tell us about how that track in particular came together? ‘Blackbird’ was a song that I had written before going out to the studio. I had a small handful of ideas, and that was one of them. So I had demoed the music for that song. Pretty much had that in a place where I thought it sounded cool. However, all of the lyrics, and melody that I was coming up with I was not a fan of. So I sent that one to Matt ahead of time, to see if he was into it. Just an instrumental version. He said that he dug it. He wrote lyrics and melody to it, rather fast. That’s when it become ‘Blackbird’. That’s a cool thing too. That’s something that rarely has happened in our band’s history. Where one of us will write the music for a song, then the other one writes the lyrics. Usually we write the songs that we sing. With this one, a lot of the songs on this record are very much co-writes in the truest sense of the word. Which is really cool, and different for us. I don’t know if that’s what lead to the energy that the song has. But yeah, that was definitely one that stuck out right away to people at the label, and people around the studio. There was no real discussion on what was going to be the single, and that was another really fun part about being in the studio. When I say no real discussion, there was no discussion at all. Like I said before, the label wasn’t coming in, asking to hear stuff, or asking if we had a song for the radio. Our producer wasn’t asking about it. We were just there writing an album. Then when it was all done we just kind of let other people decide it. We felt like we put everything that we had into the record. That’s all we can really ask of ourselves, now it’s time to let other people do their jobs.
How did you get to the album title 'Is This Thing Cursed?', and what does it mean to you? It just sort of fell into place, when we were working on the tune. As far as what the song is about, when I wrote it, it’s sort of about being in a dark depressed place that I feel a lot of us get to. When you feel like a lot of things are out of your control, and you start blaming outside sources for your problems. Blaming other people. It seems like anything around you is not what you need at the time. That’s where the concept came from. “Is this thing cursed?” everything around me is f*cking me over. That is not the answer. It’s never going to be the answer. That’s why the song is about looking inward. Ultimately, the thing I’m talking about is me, or it’s the listener. The person. Whoever that person is, who someone wants that song to be about. That’s sort of what it ultimately is. Nothing's going to change. You’re always going to feel cursed, until you look inward. If you’re having those problems. I’m not saying that with anyone who’s depressed that is their fault. But there are ways that we can deal with it.
The album harnesses themes of "depression, the 2016 presidential election, and even your hometown Chicago", however for you, can you maybe tell us about what we can expect from the lyrical approach on 'Is This Thing Cursed?'? I feel like it’s similar subject matter to what we’ve written before. Just hopefully, better. I think Matt and I are always trying to be better writers. Smarter, and trying to make people think a little bit more. I would say that my lyrics are a little more responsible in terms of suggestive things. Partying etc. That’s definitely, a tendon on my part on a personal level. We haven’t really dabbled in politics that much. We have here and there, but we do it in more of a metaphorical way, obviously. ‘I Can’t Believe’ is definitely a political song, and I feel like it’s fairly obvious how Matt’s feeling about it, and how I’m feeling about it as well.
So how did you end up working with Cameron Webb, and how would you say he helped shape the album? Cameron is such a beautiful weirdo. We worked with him on a record we did called ‘Damnesia’ which was sort of an unplugged version of some of our tunes. I feel like we had a good time making that record. It was a strange concept for us, and a strange session, but it was cool. I think that the record turned out good. Matt had gone on to work with him on some Sekrets recordings. So Matt has a slightly better relationship with him. However, we knew and liked him, and we knew that he wanted to do it. That’s another thing. He wanted to take it on, and he knew that we hadn’t made a record in a while. He knew that we hadn’t been together in a while. So he knew all of this, and he still jumped at the chance. He was like “Hell yeah, I want to do it! Let's do it!” He helped us find a studio. He’s also made some of our favourite records. He worked with Motorhead, Social Distortion, Pennywise, and has just done a lot of great stuff. He’s a good dude, and it ended up turning out very well. He had a lot of good ideas, energy, and work ethic. Which is all important.
Leading on from that, you've said that the writing process actually compared to the way you worked in the earlier days, especially on 'Maybe I'll Catch Fire’. So can you elaborate on that, and maybe how exciting it was for you? The process is different in terms of, we had a different kind of studio and a producer. We wrote a lot of ‘Maybe I’ll Catch Fire’ in the studio and beforehand. Regardless, it happened pretty quickly. For me the comparison lies really heavily with, when we wrote ‘Maybe I’ll Catch Fire’ things were just sort of going well for us. So we had written a record called ‘Goddamnit’ we put it out, people seemed to like it, and we toured on it. There was no real place where we had to go. We weren’t a big band or anything. We still had this sort of liberated feeling when going into the studio. We just took what we had, and we went in, and we made a record very quickly with our friend Matt Allison in Chicago. It was super organic, and very much a group effort, and that’s what this record is. It felt very similar in that regard. We felt liberated in the fact that we hadn’t made a record in a long time, no one knew we were there. We felt like we could do whatever we wanted, and just keep working until it was good. However long or quickly that would happen. We ended up writing it very quickly, and then taking a good amount of time shaping and tracking everything. So, the energy was similar in that vein for sure.
Photo credit: John Hong / johnhongstudio.com / @johnhongstudio
So what attracted you to playing the role of Lex Luthor in Smallville? They sent it out to me and I didn’t want to do it as I felt like it was probably going to be hokey. A lot of them were sort of run of the mill. They didn’t take the character seriously. Then they handed me this amazing dialogue and told me what the story was and how much money they were putting into it. That role changed my life. It’s hard to prepare for a role like that. I asked them, and I’ve told this before. “What are 700 other people doing wrong, that are auditioning.” Because they auditioned 700 other guys. Like, what are they doing wrong, because I’m probably going to do something wrong. They said “Well, here’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for a sense of danger, charisma, comedic timing.” So I circled certain areas of the script where I’ll be funny, or dangerous here etc. I went in, and it was one of those once in a lifetime auditions. A lot of guys were up for this. Zachary Levi (who I just interviewed on my podcast Inside of You) was telling me that he was up for the role. I was like “I don’t have a shot” but somehow I connected to it, they saw it, and they gave me the chance. The rest is history. I shaved my head, and I never looked back. It was crazy. I’d never shaved my head before, then one day you shave it, you look at yourself, and you look so different. You just go with it, and run with it. You hope for the best, because there’s such a built in fan base with Superman. I thought that they were going to hate me, or judge me. Or that I wasn’t going to be as good as Gene Hackman. Then I said “Screw it, why don’t I just do my own version, learn the lines, be vulnerable, be real, play it naturally. Don’t try too hard, just be the guy.” I have some dysfunction in my life and in my family. So it was easy for me to tap into that.
Leading on from this, what do you remember the most about your first day on set? I just remember the amount of money that they put into it. Just the enormity of the sets, and the crew, and the effort. I remember being really nervous, thinking that they were going to fire me. A lot of actors think that, that they’re going to get fired. But I just wanted to do my job. Fit in, and make them feel like I was really confident, and that I had what it took. It was great, everybody was really welcoming, and kind. Tom who played Clark, he was just a sweetheart. He hadn’t done a lot of work, and was just eager. He wanted to learn, and get better. He always strived to be the best that he could be, and I think that that sort of resonated on set. We all wanted to be as good as we could, because we knew that the production value was so good. We just wanted to be great, on a great show. So, that’s what we were hoping.
Which director did you find the most rewarding to work with in Smallville and why? Greg Beeman is one of my good buddies. We ended up writing a couple of scripts together. We sold a script together. He directed a movie called License To Drive, and he directed a lot of The Wonder Years. He and I connected. There was something about his direction, his free spirit, he was raw, he was honest. If it wasn’t good, he’d let you know. He had a way of making you feel good. We just became very close because I felt that he was a no bullsh*t kind of guy. We just connected. I loved his energy, and his understanding of the characters. He was just fantastic, and yeah, I connected with him the most. It’s funny because he ended up directing in the first season, and then he directed the season finale, which was many years later. We reunited. In fact, I’ve just wrote another script, that I’m going to start trying to sell soon. He was one of the first people that I sent it to, to get his opinion, to see if he wanted to work on it. His text to me this morning was “Man, this is dark as sh*t, but really compelling.” I was like “Alright, so you’re in?”...
Leading on from that, you actually directed the episode 'Freak' in Smallville yourself. So how exciting was that for you, to be on the other side of the camera? A lot of actors on TV shows don’t care about the technical aspect of it. Which is fine, they want to learn the lines, they want to hit their marks, and be great. Go home and call it a day. Like Tom we both had this ferocity about directing. We paid attention to what was happening with camera angles, and what kind of lenses they were using. How to tell a story. We just learned a lot, and asked a lot of questions. By season 4/5/6 we were like “We’re ready to do this!” It’s definitely difficult, but when you have a great team working for you, and everyone knows what they’re doing, like they did on Smallville, with the production value being so high. It was pretty easy to step into. The actors trusted me. They knew that I was an actor and that I wanted to get good performances. It’s very challenging though, you have to see everything, and also I’m in it. So you’re directing yourself. I never liked directing myself, because I don’t take direction well! I directed a movie after that, and a short film. I directed a feature film called Back In The Day with Morena Baccarin from Deadpool. It was this little raunchy comedy that I shot in Indiana. I learnt a lot from Smallville, enough to take me to direct a feature. It really helped, and I really love directing. I loved listening to people who knew what they were doing. When it came to special effects you listened to those guys etc. It was good, and everybody was really supportive.
At the same time as Smallville you were doing voice over work for The Flash. So how fun has he been to play, and how did you go about approaching this character? I wasn’t doing a ton of animation, but I always wanted to do it. Bruce Timm had created Justice League Unlimited. Someone cancelled a small role in one of the Batman episodes, and my agent called me saying “Hey, they need somebody in there. Will you do three lines?” I did. I went in there, they liked me. I did a whole bunch of impressions. Like Jack Nicholson, Christopher Walken, John Malkovich, Owen Wilson. They got a kick out of me I guess. We got along. The next thing I know after I got Smallville, the first season. They said come and audition for the role of The Flash in this cartoon. I was like “OK!” I really didn’t think anything was going to come from it, I went in there, gave a read. I read it 3-4 times, they liked me, and they cast me. It was a great ride. We did it for a couple of years. What I like mostly about voicing a character is that, you don’t have to shave your head, your face, dress up. All you have to do is be able to do the line a couple of different ways, and take direction. The director was brilliant. They just let me play and have fun. I got to work with a lot of the guest actors who came in. Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins. It was just a treat. You’re a kid in a candy store getting to play make believe. It was a lot fun, and I really loved doing it. From there I got to do the Jackie Chan cartoon, and I got to do many video games. I’ve got a video game coming out actually! Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Photo credit: John Hong / johnhongstudio.com / @johnhongstudio
Is there a particular episode where you play The Flash that you just found really memorable to do? If so, which one, and why? Yeah, so there’s one called The Great Brain Robbery which everyone always talks about. Where Lex and The Flash switch brains. So Clancy Brown was playing Lex Luthor in the Justice League and I was playing The Flash. We sort of switched roles and it was really fun. It was weird, and it was difficult. The Great Brain Robbery is something that every fan of the Justice League, The Flash, just always remembers.
So once your time with Smallville was finished, you felt like it was time to move on to working in different genres. One of these genres being the comedy world. So how exciting and different was Impastor to work on, amongst of course other projects? I wanted to do comedy as I had been doing drama for quite some time, with the exception of a few roles. I really love comedy, I did a short show for a year called Breaking In, then I did Impastor for two years. I did a couple of pilots, I ended up directing my raunchy comedy Back In The Day. It was nice and freeing to do something else. Impastor was a great way to show all sides. To be in a physical comedy, to be funny, to be the leading guy, and have hair! All of those things. I get bored really easily, and that’s my biggest problem. Imagine seven years with a guy who has attention deficit disorder, that was me. I was just on Smallville and I was like “Omg I’m playing the same role!” but yeah I signed a deal. I like to do a lot of different characters, and different voices. For video games, funny movies, dramatic, be a transvestite. I just like to mix it up. So that’s why I recently wrote a show. It’s funny because Alfred Gough who created Smallville, and a lot of other people always say “Hey, I know you love the comedy, but don’t forget the drama, because you’re good at it” and I’ve been like “Wow, thanks!” However, they’re right, I did a good job, and I can do drama. I think that I did it for so long that I got worn out, and that I didn’t want to do any drama. But like I said, I wrote a show that’s dark, and hopefully we'll make that, and I’ll get to come back to TV and play another darker character again.
You were the producer on Impastor as well, so how exciting or maybe even challenging was that, to be both producing and acting on the same show? It was really difficult, because I think that a lot of times when you get a role and they say that you’re an executive producer, you just have that title. However, for me, they wanted me to be really involved. That meant doing notes on every episode and every edited cut. Giving all of my notes, so you’d take an hour and a half each cut. It’s casting, reading with different actors, looking at different auditions from guest stars. It’s chiming in and talking to the other executive producers. Fighting for something that you believe in. Being a leader on a show, working 12-14 hours a day, and then going home, doing that it was really taxing, and very tiring. However, it was incredibly rewarding. I did appreciate it, and I learned a lot. I was around a fantastic group of guys. Rob Greenberg, Eric Tannenbaum. Eric produced Two and a Half Men. Rob produced Frasier and won Emmys. These guys were top notch, and I learned a lot from them. I would do it again. We’re talking about doing something together again. So hopefully it will be soon.
So, how did you get the role of Martinex in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2? Martinex was one of these things where James Gunn and I had worked together on stuff. He has always been one of my closest friends. When he got Guardians of the Galaxy, I tested for it, for the role that Chris Pratt got. I didn’t get it, and I gave a good read. However, I was happy that he gave me the opportunity. That was really it. Then fast forward, my friends were like “James Gunn is your best friend, why isn’t he putting you in the movie!” and I was like “When it’s right, it’ll work!” In the second one, he said “Look, there’s a smaller role, it’s going to be bigger in the later ones” It’s for the character Martinex who is one of the original characters in the Guardians of the Galaxy comic books. In this one he’s one of the ravagers, and it’s going to be you and Stallone!” That was all he had to say, Sylvester Stallone. I was gung-ho, and I truly appreciate my friend James Gunn for giving me this opportunity. We shot three scenes and then I was like “Wait a minute, I have CGI! You’re going to CGI my face! I want to be seen. WTF!” It was fun, and it’s a great character. I think it’s a cool looking character, and he’s got a lot of back story. I hope that the rumours saying that he’s going to come back are true. They put us in the end credits, and usually when they do that Marvel has a propensity for bringing those characters back.
So, how did the idea for the Inside of You podcast first come together? My friend (and right hand man on the show) Rob Holysz came to me and said “Hey, you should do a podcast! I’m an engineer” I was like “I don’t know, everyone’s got a podcast!” He said “No, I think you’d be great! You’re good with people” So we started doing this podcast. I didn’t really know what exactly I was doing other than talking to people and finding out who they were. Usually it was celebrity friends, or some people that I didn’t know. I felt like it became what it was supposed to. It became sort of therapeutic in a sense that it wasn’t just your run of the mill “celebrity fluff.” Everyone is happy, has a great life, and goes out and parties. It was more like, where these people come from, what makes them tick, what their anxieties and fears are. If they suffer from depression. Jennifer Love Hewitt talked about the death of her mother. Zachary Levi talked about his mother’s mental health. Everybody gets a little personal. Even Stephen Amell from the Arrow was like “I never talk about this stuff, and you made me feel comfortable.” You don’t want to feel like you’re interrogating people, you just want to have a conversation. Just sort of let it go where it goes. It’s called Inside Of You with Michael Rosenbaum, and it’s free on iTunes. It’s just become like therapy for me, and the audience. If you look on Twitter you’ll see hundreds of responses from people who said that it helped them, and saying that the way we talked about certain subjects made them feel like it’s OK. It is OK to talk about mental health. Nobody is perfect, and everyone has ticks and things that they’re hiding. It’s just nice to talk to people who have had a lot of success, about real things. I think that’s why people are really responding to it. I want to give a thanks to Anna Faris and Sim Sarna who came to me and said that they love the show and I go "Oh thanks!" We were just new. They said how they’d like to produce it, I said “OK!” So the next thing you know, our numbers just took off after their involvement. The numbers keep rising. The guests are fantastic. We’ve got Dave Bautista coming up. Michael Rooker. It’s just fun for me. It’s at my house in the hills. It’s just un-adulterated, like “Hey! This is who I am! I’m not going to pretend that I’m something better!” We talk about everything. Hopefully they’re cool with that, and usually they have been. There’s been a couple of moments where they look at me and they mouth “I don’t want to talk about that!” and I’m like “OK!” Chris Sullivan (from Guardians of the Galaxy/This Is Us) a buddy of mine, had never listened to my podcast. The next thing I know he tweeted out saying that this could be one of his most favourite podcasts ever. He went on about it all over social media. Chris Pratt is liking it, Mandy Moore. I’m like “Wow, this is good for the podcast!” I just love people. To me it’s like “Come on and have a listen! We’re going to talk about real stuff! Hopefully you’ll get something out of it” Because I always try to get something out of it, for me. I hope the guests get something out of it. It’s been really fun.
It must be amazing to just have that kind of realness? Yeah, that’s what I always tell people. It’s like “Hey, if you had a great life/childhood, then say it. Don’t make something up. If you didn’t, then let’s talk about it!” Usually I can relate if they had a dysfunctional family, or issues growing up. I had a brother who ran away when he was 16, my sister left when she was 18, my mum was abused by her first husband, divorced him when she was like 17, had two kids already. She got married to my father, who had me and my brother. He was a hippy, he had no money. There was just a lot of s*it. I’m very vulnerable. What you see, is what you get. I’m going to tell you what happened to me. I’m going to tell you how I want to get better, and what I’m trying to do. I think that people respond to that. I think with the guests, deep down, they don’t want people to think that they’re invincible. There’s something nice to know that we are all human. We all suffer from phobias. Dysfunction. Everyone has problems, it’s how you deal with them. For me it’s talking openly that make my problems seem a little bit better.
So, what else can we expect from you in 2018? I’m going to continue doing the podcast, I want to keep bringing on great guests. People that are interesting. I wrote this show, and hopefully the next time that I talk to you, by the end of this year, we’ll have it sold and we’ll be making it. I think we’re ready to go out and pitch it. I wrote a couple of screen plays that we’re trying to sell as well. I’ll probably do a little bit more stand up comedy. I’ve got a band as well. We’re not sure what the name’s going to be just yet. We’re thinking right now, Left on Laurel, but we’re not sure yet. The band is going to Germany for a little tour. I’m going to a convention in Paris in October, November is Germany for the tour with Rockwood Events. They’re producing it, and they’re flying us all in to play some music for four days. We’re doing our album, and we’re almost finished with it. We’ve got about three songs left. I like to keep busy. I have a new puppy called Blanche so now I have Irv and Blanche my dogs. They’re also my grandparents who live in Florida. There’s Blanche & Irv who live on the East Coast and Blanche & Irv on the West Coast!
Photo credit: Rob Holysz
So when and how did you get into acting? I grew up in a theatre family so you could say I was born into it. Apparently at age 4 I performed an improvised monologue about a lost wart to a room of 20 adults. I consider this my acting debut.
Who were your influences growing up, and why? So many actors and artists have influenced me! One of the earlier ones is Sarah Bernard who was a French actress in the late 19th Century most famous for playing the role of Hamlet in 1899. I always wanted to play parts I was not appropriate or "right" for so she inspired me at a young age to think anything outside the box. I was always drawn to comedy so Monty Python, Robin Williams, John Leguizamo, Whoopi Goldberg and Lucille Ball were also big influences since they created new forms and broke barriers.
What was your first major project, and what do you remember the most from this time? My first big project was a part in a German TV movie. The scene I auditioned with had three people in it, but since the casting director and I were only two people I figured I should play the third character as well. I had no idea that’s not how it’s done. So I just switched in and out of multiple characters in the audition. At the end of the audition the casting director was like “Who are you?!!!” Sometimes it's good to break rules.
Photo credit: @ Mindy Tucker What was it like to play the role of Harmony in Red Dwarf, and what did you enjoy the most about working in that world? Playing Harmony in Red Dwarf was better than floating through the sky on a Nutella cloud. It was AMAZING! Working with geniuses like Doug Naylor, the writer and creator, and the incredible cast is all you can ever want or ask for. I do a lot of live comedy and performance, all my scenes in Red Dwarf were filmed in front of a live studio audience which meant I was able to have the best of both worlds. My favorite thing about working on Red Dwarf was the writing which is so good all I had to do was deliver. I had food poisoning on the day of the shoot which ended up working to my favor since I had no time to be nervous - all I could think about was not projectile vomiting on Rimmer.
What attracted you to the role of Mercy in Overwatch? Mercy is a three dimensional female character which is hard to come by. She has so many different sides to her - she is empathetic, nurturing and very feminine yet tough as nails, highly educated and very pragmatic. She is down to earth yet can be sassy and fun. There is so much dimension to her she feels like a real person. As an actor, any time you get to dive into a character who reflects the complexity of humanity that is a real gift. Mercy has taught me a lot about myself and has brought me closer to qualities I possess which I had taken for granted.
Looking back on the game, is there a particular highlight you have from working on it? Every time I get called in to record new voice lines or work on the game I am as excited as if it were the first day. I love seeing what Michael, Jeff and the team come up with for Mercy and the rest of the Overwatch universe. The Pink Skin Breast Cancer Research Charity Event was a really amazing experience for me. So many people reached out to me with their stories of survival and struggle. I am forever grateful to be a part of something so incredibly meaningful to people all over the world. The event raised over $12.7 million for Breast Cancer Research and to have been a small part of that is something I cherish so very much. The voice line "Helping those in need is its own reward," is such an important and beautiful message to put out there.
What was it like to work with Jeffrey Kaplan, Aaron Keller, and how did they help shape your character in the game? It's an absolute dream come true to work with these geniuses. They give us a lot of freedom to make choices and guide us in gentle ways. We know we can trust them which is the most important element in creating the characters. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of their world. They are fabulous people.
The game is obviously a huge success, however, for you, why do you think it's become so relatable to so many? I think Overwatch has become as big as it is because of the diversity and complexity of the characters and the narrative quality of the backstories and lore. Overwatch has set a real precedent in the gaming world for inclusivity. This is the first game of its kind which reflects the world we live in which is why almost everyone out there finds something to identify with in the Overwatch characters.
So what was it like to be in the one of the biggest films of 2016 Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them, and what do you remember the most from your time working on the film? Working on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a really wild experience. My favorite memory is of the day I had to go in for the costume fitting. I had gotten the part right before I was heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with my show Cry Me A Liver. I was doing one show every day for 28 consecutive days with no days off in Edinburgh for all of August and was supposed to start shooting Fantastic Beasts right after. One day as I was flyering in horizontal rain for my show, not very glamorous and my phone rings. A production assistant on the movie tells me they need me asap for a costume fitting in London. I explain that I am doing a show every day at 4:30pm with no days off and he decides that they will fly me out from Edinburgh to London after my show, do the costume fitting the next morning in London and fly me back in time to do the show that same day. So the following day I do my show, take a taxi to the airport and fly to London. They put me up at a fabulous hotel and pick me up bright and early the next morning. I get ushered into the most amazing costume paradise and the costume designer Colleen Atwood (who later won an Oscar for her work on the movie) does the fitting with me. Then I am ushered to the make up trailer so they too can meet me. When I exit the trailer Colin Farrell is leaning up against the door smoking a cigarette. He says “Hi” and I say “Hi” as if we've known each other for years. I get driven back to the airport, get on a flight to Edinburgh, get out, take a taxi to my venue, change into my costume and do my show. What just happened? I feel like a million bucks, the only problem was no one else knew about the Hollywood Glamour Cloud I had just ridden in on.
Photo credit: @ Blizzard & @ Laura Rose
You've also written three solo comedy shows, so what were they like to work on, and can you tell us a little bit about each one? My three solo comedies are called Hi, Hitler, Cry Me A Liver and Apohlcalypse Now! I like puns, ok? Hi, Hitler is an autobiographical comedy about my upbringing as a German-Jew in a wild theatre family, emigrating to the US from Germany at age 8, my fascination for Hitler and David Hasselhoff and always wanting to fit in. It's a fish out of water story. Cry Me A Liver is a character comedy - I play 10 different characters in the show and it's sort of a love letter to all the weirdos in New York. Apohlcalypse Now! is based on my experience shooting a horror film in Turkey with Michael Madsen and Stephen Baldwin which leads to the breakdown of a very long relationship and a personal apocalypse. I also found a dead rat in my mailbox during that time, so I thought all that was worthy of a show.
You've done a handful of comic cons over recent years. How rewarding have they been for you to do, and what do you enjoy the most about being a part of them?
I have done 16 cities this year and have met so many incredible fans all over the country and the world. The most rewarding part of doing the Comic Cons is getting to meet the fans one on one, hearing their stories and seeing how much our work means to them and their every day lives. The fans share so much of themselves with us whether it be through verbally telling us their stories, or through expressing themselves and their creativity in their cosplay, fan art or sometimes even just a handshake. It's incredibly touching, fun, interesting, and sometimes mind blowing.
What else can we expect to see from Lucie Pohl in 2018? Look out for me at NY Comic Con and events in Vancouver, Orlando, and more. I also just debuted a new voice on World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth and have another voice on a video game coming out later this year. I'm in an upcoming pilot on Pop TV and am working on a new comedy show. For those of you who live in NY I host a monthly comedy show called Immigrant Jam every third Thursday of the month. I will also be doing my comedy solo hour Apohlcalypse Now! at the Under St. Mark's Theatre during NY Comic Con in NY Oct 4-6. Lastly, I'm working on a book and my feature film script debut.
So when and how did you first get involved in acting? 2003 I had my first official audition for AVP, It wasn't really anything that I chose to do, at the time I was very naive. I didn't realize the magnitude of the opportunity before me, but threw myself into it with gusto none the less. Two years prior to that, oddly enough, my first experience of a film set, I stood in for Hagrid for one day on the Potter location shoot in Alnwick Castle. It poured with rain for the entire day, nothing was filmed and at the end of the day, the producers said, "Will you just help set up the first shot for tomorrow at the castle keep?" I was standing in the pouring rain in the castle keep of Alnwick Castle with three children. One; a boy with glasses, another boy with red hair and a young girl with shoulder length curly hair. It was only when I saw the film at the cinema that I realized who they were!
Your first major project is Alien Vs. Predator. So what was that like, and what do you remember the most from your time in this iconic world? It was daunting, huge pressure. it was the first time that any sort of Predator character had been seen on screen since Predator 2, so I was very aware of the responsibility. I was working with Oscar winning effects designers Tom Woodruff Jr and Alec Gillis, not to mention Oscar winning VFX coordinator John Bruno. Tom and Alec were great mentors with invaluable knowledge and experience. We have worked together several times since then and I worked with John Bruno once again on Hercules. I had been to the ADI workshop several times for costume fittings, but to work with them day after day... these were luminaries! Leading lights in their industry fields, I was in awe!
You went on to perform stunts for Madame Olympe Maxime in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. So what was that like for you at the time? At the time it felt like I was book ending my entire career with my first two films. AVP: constant monster action, kill everything! Madame Maxine: Philip Tracy hats and exotic couture! I was actually introduced to Nick Dudman, the head of the Harry Potter Creatures department through Mark Coulier and Paul Spateri who were working with me on AVP. (Mark has gone on to win two Oscars of his own) The idea was to emulate the "trick" used to bring Hagrid to life for the previous Potter films. So I would perform all the wide shots where the character is seen full size (8' 6"). This involved 3 months of stilt training, walking, dancing etc... and almost an entire year of filming.
What was it like to return to predator in AVP: Requiem, and did the process change much from how you worked with the character in the first film? If you put a gun to my head, The Wolf from Requiem is by far my favourite of the two hero characters. Three years passed between the two films. For those three years I basically trained as an athlete. in the gym every day, kung fu, weapons, yoga, strength, stamina, you name it. I was once asked to leave my gym on health and safety grounds because the manager considered my weapons routines a danger to other gym users! (Even when I only ever practiced when alone!) The process was far more intense than the first film. AVP was filmed over a six month period. Requiem was filmed over a three month period and we crammed in twice as much action in that time. There was one time when I had to be shoe horned into the costume whilst still basically asleep! Another time the producer stormed into the studio and shouted "Ian Whyte, go home!" we were about to shoot a scene, so I was incredulous. "What do you mean?" I said. He came up to me and quietly explained that I had been on set for 18 hours and the overtime rates prohibited me from being on set any longer!
How did you get the part of the Last Engineer in Prometheus, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from being in this outstanding Sci-Fi world? Conor O'Sullivan, the prosthetics supervisor is a dear friend. We have worked together on Prometheus, Clash of the Titans, Game of Thrones and Hercules. He asked me to do a makeup test for an upcoming Ridley Scott Film. One makeup test turned into about five makeup tests and then one day I was invited to meet the director, but it wasn't until after that I was invited to meet with the casting director, which is actually when it became real. ironically, the scene that I auditioned for Nina Gold is the only Engineer scene in the movie that I didn't shoot.
Also, can you tell us about what it was like to work with Ridley Scott? Ridley is an artist, a genius and a gentleman. He shaped the character himself. it was an idea in his head for 32 years before we shot the film. Cinematic history.
Wun Wun is one of those characters that brings something unique to Game of Thrones. He adds depth, and makes this whole world that they've created seem so detailed. Can you tell us about what attracted you to playing this character? Giants had been seen for the first time in series 3 and in the great action scenes attacking the wall in series 4. Wun Wun was the first time we had seen a giant character, previously aloof, perceived somewhat semi savages, display anything approaching humanity. Wun Wun displays a huge amount of humanity; the hatred of the threat of the undead. the disdain for the "little" human warriors: "Thol Kif Rokh." To his ultimate sacrifice for John Snow. I loved playing him and I had no idea how popular he was until he died.
What scene was the most challenging for you to do as Wun Wun, and why? Wun Wun has had the huge pleasure and the great honour to be a part of the two most popular battle scenes in the entire history of Game of Thrones: Hardhome and the Battle of the Bastards. Both had their challenges, but if I must choose, then I must choose the Battle of the Bastards. The director Colm McCarthy once told me "Enjoy your death!"
Before this you also played Gregor 'The Mountain' Clegane in the show. So, what was that like, and how did you go about bringing your own approach to this character? This was season two and up to this point the Mountain had only uttered that one memorable word: "SWORD!" During preparation there were flash back scenes detailing the Mountains horrible history and the scene that I auditioned, (Yes, I auditioned again) was considerable. However, working with Charles Dance was amazing. We just did it, two takes as I recall, so inspiring!
What are the make up artists/workshop behind Game of Thrones like to work with, and how do you think they've helped shape your characters in Game of Thrones over the years? Barrie Gower and his team are geniuses, which is why they keep winning Emmy awards. Their work, is magic, plain and simple, they turn the fantastic into reality.
You got to play both Bollie Prindel & Roodown in Star Was: The Force Awakens. Can you tell us about the HUGE creature workshop behind Star Wars, and maybe what they were like to work with when creating your scenes with these characters? These characters, no matter how good they look, are all unscripted. So itâ€™s anyone's guess what character the director will like for what scene. When you are called for what is known as a "show and tell" you have to, in a very short space of time, convince the director that the character should be seen in the Star Wars Universe. Roodown was a location shoot so it was more than likely that he was going to be in the movie, but Bollie was not so certain, but he even made it into The Last Jedi... Briefly! And was almost in focus!
What's your favourite memory from working in the Star Wars world, and why? I made a list: Location shoots in the Arabian desert and Iceland (twice). English tourists stumbling across our location in possibly the remotest part of Iceland. Stunt doubling Chewie in the Dolomites on Solo and Phil Lord bounding over to me to tell me "The coolest thing about this movie is Chewie arriving on set in a helicopter!" The stunt coordinator on Solo encouraging me to "Stop making it look so easy!" Working with Bradford Young and chatting with him about his short film "Black America Again."
Also, can you tell us about what J. J. Abrams was like to work with? JJ was a dream to work with. VII as we knew it at the time, was a very special project and he made it so. I had three jobs on the film.The two creature characters that I played and also stunt doubling for Peter Mayhew. The first time I met JJ was for a show and tell as Chewie. I was then bundled on a plane and flown to Iceland with the rest of the stunt team!
What's been the hardest make up session you've been a part of/to do in your career, and why? I did a horror/thriller with Colm McCarthy, called Outcast. My makeup process was about 8 hours long and by the end, ironically I was basically naked. The film was shot in Edinburgh in February, mostly at night!
What else can we expect to see from you in 2018? I'm so excited about what's coming up, I wish I could tell you.
How excited are you for Decapitated to play a UK exclusive set at Mammothfest? Every year, as we get closer to our events I get really excited. I lose a lot of sleep with the many things we need to do but at the same time I am able to visualise the event quite clearly having done this for a number of years and I just know that moment when DECAPITATED step out on stage the crowd will go completely nuts. As a UK exclusive show too it’s a really special moment for our customers and our team, something we will never forget.
What upcoming bands do you recommend everyone checks out at the event? As with every year, I pride myself on selecting the best bands out there so whether they are new to many or world renowned I can guarantee that every band on the bill will be incredible. I know this because I have been touring the UK looking for them and seen what they can do with my own eyes. For this reason I am reluctant to recommend bands as I genuinely recommend them all.
What has the planning of the festival for this year been like? This year has been a lot easier and I think that’s down to our experience and the systems we now have in place. We are a slick well oiled machine now so unlike the past where we needed to meet a lot and come up with solutions, now we have our ways and it’s just been so much easier. Add to that the fact we have such incredible support from our customers who now follow us on social media so it’s been easier to reach our customers who are more forthcoming with buying their tickets making our job much easier.
It is no secret that the future of Mammothfest looks a bit murky, can you shed any light on the situation? Financially, in 2017 we lost a lot of money and I am personally liable for this despite it being a business, I take responsibility. So not only have I had to put the money together for MF2018, I have to look at ways of repaying our investor for the losses. This is the thing, people can be so lazy and apathetic and I get why, people don’t stress in life and that’s fine. But for me personally, I put myself through such incredible pressure and no one knows about it, after all its my decision and problem but sometimes I really wished people would understand just how hard it is trying to run a metal festival. There were so many metal heads in Brighton last year that didn’t get tickets and attend, we actually relied more on customers travelling from further afield, this I do not understand at all when our line up was so strong. So I have decided to scale back our event this year to make it affordable to me. This is incredibly frustrating when we have such huge plans for an outdoor festival etc but without the support of the customers in the abundance we desire we cannot grow and so backwards we go. I may make further changes next year too, we shall see how 2018 goes but one thing is for certain, I will not be putting myself through such stress any more.
What has been the biggest challenges you have faced this year for the festival? Getting customers to buy tickets early to enable me to recoup my investments which, affects my family life! If I pay for Decapitated’s flights from my own money then I have nothing left for my family, it’s as simple as that. It is the same every year, with one month to go everyone is now buying their tickets at a more expensive price than our early bird prices. Financially this works in the longer run but in terms of cash flow it can leave things very tight. It is what it is and I am used to it now but if you are reading this, get your tickets early, help businesses like us as it really does make a huge difference!
With more and more festivals getting cancelled, how important is it that people support the local scene? If there are no festivals, there are no opportunities for bands to perform. If bands have a lack of proper outlets for their music and live performances then they won’t be in bands. If there are no bands we have no music to listen to down the line. So it is incredibly important we ensure there is an infrastructure in place for all. We need support as a festival but so do magazines who struggle, so do the bands and venues. The thing here is that it is all part of the “music food chain” and when one link breaks it cascades across all the others. For example, if a magazine shuts down the bands would have less places to promote themselves, then with less coverage they have to struggle much harder to get their music out there so they don’t grow so festivals may be less inclined to book them and so they then close up. Whichever link breaks, the impact is felt all the way along. But the thing that really upsets me is the complacency that things will just always be. I have seen it so many times now that unless people wake up and realise how important their support and actions are, they do make a difference, then these pillars of infrastructure will collapse and there is a very real risk our scene could crash one day.
Looking back at all Mammothfest events, what have been some of your main highlights to date and why? Tough one as there have been so many incredible moments so rather than pin it on one I would like to mention a few: When we interviewed Venom Inc back stage at Concorde 2 and the legend that is Abaddon sat on my leg for the whole interview and almost gave me “abaddonitis” nearly breaking my leg sitting on my leg for 20 minutes throughout the interview as you can see here > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WL340mfWE&t=3s but of course most importantly the fact we have Venom perform at Mammothfest, this was one of the biggest moments of my career! Welcoming to the stage Fleshgod Apocalypse who to me are one of the best and pioneering bands in the world. Amenra were simply stunning live last year too. Onslaught were an honour to work with, in 2015 as the first large band we booked after our return. Rotting Christ were an honour to welcome to our stage also last year. But also it’s not just about the big bands, it’s about giving the emerging bands the opportunity to support these inspirational legends and create magic memories and moments that none of us will ever forget. This to me is where it is at because we can’t take money with us but we can sit back and smile at all these moments and be the wealthiest people in the world.
What can festival attendees expect from Mammothfest 2018, especially given the fact it sadly could be the last? Whether it is the last remains to be seen. If sales continue as strongly as they have been and we make a profit I would be open to doing another one next year but the people really do need to show their love and support for the bands and our team because as explained before, it’s a serious commitment, one that has quite an impact on my home life so let’s see. As for what can be expected, 3 days and 4 venues of serious heavy metal with incredible bands all on Brighton sea front with the sea as our backdrop. It really does not get much better than that!
Is there anything else you would like to add? I am waiting for confirmation KK DOWNING of Judas Priest will be my very special guest sharing the hosting of the weekend with me so I recommend everyone heads over to our Mammothfest Facebook page to like and follow us for news of this and of course get your tickets asap and be there for the making of history again!
Behemoth - I Loved You at Your Darkest How do you follow an album as revered as ‘The Satanist’? Well, with ‘I Loved You at Your Darkest’, Behemoth's first new album in four years, we are all about to find out. After the intro track, ‘Wolves Ov Siberia’ launches a precision, almost sniperesque attack on the listener. The trademark Behemoth guitar tone is present, except it feels like the dial marked menace has been turned up to eleven while four years between albums means Nergal's vocals feel like they could knock the listener physically off their feet. The children's choir present on the intro returns in the album's first single, ‘God = Dog’, which is perhaps the weakest track on the album, but can be quickly forgiven considering what follows. The album comes fully to life with ‘Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica’, which is a full encapsulation of Behemoth at the peak of their powers. Heavy as a ten tonne anvil in one moment, then the next dropping in some subtle, almost flamenco acoustic guitars, before then backing aforementioned flamenco guitar with some of the heaviest blast beats heard on any record all year. There's also an excellent use of a choir on the track, which may lead some listeners to wonder just how have they packed so much excellence into a single song. ‘Bartzabel’ continues things with a slow, brooding intro before exploding to life with Nergal's vocals crashing in like a tidal wave. The riffs here are monstrous, and the sound as a whole feels absolutely huge, with the added keys and chanting providing an almost "Dimmu Borgir at their pomp" feel to the track, making it a song where the listener feels fully encapsulated by the music.
‘Angelvs XIII’ feels somewhat like a throw back to older Behemoth, with the relentless double kick drumming and simpler, fiercer riffing reminiscent of some of the tracks from ‘Evangelion’ and before. That it as least, until the guitar solo kicks in, Nergal and Seth can shred with the best of them when the music requires them to. ‘Sabbath Mater’ returns to the more atmospheric but no less heavy sound brought to prominence on ‘The Satanist’, and to back up the point made on ‘Angelvs XIII’, features one of the most noticable and enjoyable guitar solos written by Behemoth up to this point, before being swallowed by a tornado of Inferno's drums and Nergal's guttural roars at their most menacing. Approaching the conclusion of ‘I Loved You at Your Darkest’, the quality does not dip for a second. ‘Havohej Pantocrator’ feels like the natural successor to ‘The Satanist's’ ‘Ben Sahar’, while ‘Rom 5:8’ veers from the sublime to the ridiculous. It is another moment on the album that will leave the listener scratching their head as to how Nergal and co have managed to pack so much into a four minute song and have it come out as a piece of death-come-black metal brilliance rather than sounding a mess, but then that is one of many things that sets Behemoth above all their peers in the genre. ‘We Are the Next 1000 Years’ seems a fitting title for the last full track of the album, as with the impact Behemoth have made with ‘The Satanist’, and will make with this album, they might well still be listening to Behemoth in a thousand years time. ‘Coagvla’, the album's outro, leaves things with a typically haunting tone mixed amidst a sonic assault of tectonic drumming and evil sounding riffs, and a feeling that even after all this, there's much more to come from Behemoth. They have quite simply picked up where ‘The Satanist’ left off and carried on, evolving and tweaking their sound to create something equally as impressive as their previous masterpiece. An absolute must hear album.
Time, The Valuator - How Fleeting, How Fragile German melodic tech-metallers Time, The Valuator have exploded onto the radars of many in 2018, and with their new album ‘How Fleeting, How Fragile’, it's little wonder why. As soon as a listener gets their ears around ‘How Fleeting, How Fragile's’ opening track ‘Terminus’, it should be quite clear that they are about to hear something very special. It is a track that manages to be beautiful, expansive, and still in places crushingly heavy all at once. Vocalist Phil Bayer has a wonderful ethereal quality to his main vocal style, quite reminiscent of his tech-metal peer Dan Tompkins of TesseracT in places, but with a vocal identity very much his own. Very much not a band who will remain pigeonholed to the tech metal "label", Time, The Valuator experiment throughout their album, all the while staying true to their core sound. Tracks like ‘The Violent Sound’ have bursts of vocal delivery that border on rap metal, where there are segments throughout that firmly sit in the ambient metal / post metal world, all swirled together masterfully by the band and producer Chris Kempe. Moving through the album, ‘Cloud City’ finds Time, The Valuator at their absolute serene best. It's a song that fully allows the listener to lose themself in it, yet transitions perfectly into the heavier yet melancholic ‘Elusive Reasons’ (the opening riff from which being one of the stand out guitar parts across the whole album). ‘How Fleeting, How Fragile’ is one of those rare albums where the quality does not dip at all no matter what part of the album is being listened to from start to finish. ‘When I Meet Death’ is another gloriously slow burning track that will swallow the listener with its haunting melodies but arguably still the best was yet to come. That title goes to the penultimate track, the utterly wonderful ‘Starseeker’. ‘Starseeker’ is a six minute and twenty two second encapsulation of everything wonderful (both the melodic and heavy elements) about Time, The Valuator, and the one song you would pick to introduce the band to someone who had not heard them before. The album's closing title track is another sumptuous audible feast, with Phil Bayer's vocals excelling once again. ‘How Fleeting, How Fragile’ is a very, very special album. Time, The Valuator may have been a relatively unknown band before the release of this album, but after this they deserve the attention of the entire metal world. One of the best albums of 2018. JG
Homebound - More To Me Than Misery UK pop punk rockers unleash their second EP through Rude Records and show they have more to offer. Opening track ‘Change of Heart’ is instantly melodic, hard hitting with honest lyrics and makes for a gripping start that draws you. Changing the tone ‘Coming Clean’ has a harder punchy edge, with dynamic changing tempos and structures, making this a stand out song. ‘Truth Be Told’ is filled with memorable riffs and is more typical pop punk than the others but is still a solid track which shows consistency, whereas ‘Indelible’ shows another layer to the back and is more stripped back and emotive. Final song ‘Yours Truly’ is a great anthemic rock hit which is powerful, melodic and well-rounded, making for a perfect closer. This is an enjoyable and exciting EP which will leave you eager to hear more from Homebound, who manage to inject some fresh energy into pop punk. CL
Alkaline Trio - Is This Thing Cursed? American punk rockers return with their ninth album ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ which follows their 2013 release ‘My Shame Is True’, with the five year gap being their longest yet between albums. Opening and title track features some nice vocal harmonies and sets the scene well, making for a fine song to kick things off. ‘Blackbird’ picks up the pace with strong chords and is rebellious with a stand out chorus. The high energy ‘Demon and Division’ flows nicely on and features some consistent and notable drum work. ‘Little Help?’ is a fast paced and vibrant sounding track which is full of swagger, even though the lyrical content is sombre, the instruments pick it up to mask the negativity. The short but sweet ‘Pale Blue Ribbon’ packs a punch and changes the tempo up and keeps things exciting, whereas ‘Stay’ is a very honest track which shows off Matt’s more emotive side. ‘Worn So Thin’ and ‘Throw Me To The Lions’ truly embrace the classic punk rock ethos and will surely be fan favourites for it. Final song ‘Krystalline’ shows another side to the band in a stripped back acoustic which contains bouncy guitars and great rhythms. It is a beautiful moment to end on, which highlights Matt’s vocal capabilities and actually acts as the perfect way to close, being heartfelt, raw and emotive. After all this time they still manage to capture their core essence and this may be their most well-rounded and mature offering yet. The album benefits from repeat listens to unveil more intricacies and depth but it’s worth the time. Another great thing about this great album is that all members have their moment to shine. It’s clear that after all this time, the band are still enjoying what they do best and they aren’t running short on creativity.
CL Third Eye Blind - Thanks For Everything American rock band Third Eye Blind release a covers EP of songs that inspire singer Stephan Jenkins who puts a modern spin on them. The proceeds of the EP go to Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum, a band favourite and the EP’s cover is a tribute of Warhol’s iconic Skulls, splashed with graffiti by stencil-and-spray-paint artist Uncutt. “It’s a visual version of what we’re doing with these artists’ songs... In both cases, I hope it will yield renewed interest in the originals,” Jenkins has said, both aspirationally and condescendingly. The first cover is of ‘10’ by American rock band Happy Diving and Third Eye Blind do a good job of capturing the essence of the track but making their own mark too and as a result it is one of the best covers on the album. Next up is ‘F*ck Forever’ originally by indie rockers Babyshambles who made it rebellious, unconventional and not radio friendly, whereas Third Eye Blind manage to make it very commercial sounding, but it is a solid effort. An unexpected cover comes in the form of American new wave/alternative singer songwriter Santigold’s ‘This Isn’t Our Parade’ which sounds very different to the original, it is very upbeat and shiny, being the most pop fuelled offering but it works well. ‘Song To The Siren’ by Tim Buckley is kept nicely intact and Jenkins shows off his vocal capabilities well in this emotive cover. ‘Joke’ by Chastity Belt follows and is a nice version which again seems to embrace the more pop side of things, like most of the other songs but the biggest example of this is with ‘In the Fade’ a Queens Of The Stone Age cover, the band give it a very chilled and fuzzy happy sound, making it almost unrecognisable to the original. The final cover is of indie folk band Bon Iver’s ‘Blood Bank’ which is a powerful one to end on and Stephan does it proud. The band up the mainstream sounds to all the covers and although the idea behind the EP was a nice and inspiring idea for the band and the fans, it would have been good to see more rock elements present. That being said it is a solid collection of covers to listen to and does the job of paying thanks and hopefully it inspires the band for their next original album. CL
North of South - Nobody Knows (single) North of South isn’t your quintessential metal band. Deriving from Spain, with their mixture of jazz, death, latin, and pop influences this is a very different kind of progressive metal than most are used to. ‘Nobody Knows’ is a breath of fresh air. Its violins and cellos create a very rich and different sound that can only be enriched by its edgy and fast paced guitar and intense energetic drums. The different instrumental changes throughout the track is what what makes this song composition wise interesting, as the instrumentation of this band is what makes this track really stand out. The unique vocals really mesh well with this song as it gives it a poppy flavour with a little bit of an edge. ‘Nobody Knows’ is definitely one of those tracks that will set this band on fire and get them noticed. It’s a must listen for any progressive metal fan that is looking for something different and interesting on their playlist. SA
Pyrite Sidewalk - Pretense Pyrite Sidewalk is a Post Hardcore band from the San Francisco Bay area. With the band being formed in 2011 by vocalist Jake Stai and bassist Stephen Stenger, they slowly started to gain some attention after their ‘Under the Influence’ EP. They have now put out ‘Pretense’, a very moving and effective album lyrically as it is captivating instrumentally. Graham’s honeyed guitar ablities really capture the soundscape that the album wants to live in, as well as the high energy talents of Alex Orvis on the drums Stenger on bass. This album speaks of lyrical honesty with a backdrop of amazing instrumentals to keep things interesting for its duration. Songs like ‘V162’ stand out particularly as one of the most emotional and raw songs on the album as it talks of abuse from a family member and how one is not able to get past the negative head space it has created for this person and their family members. This track is melodically impressive to the ears guitar wise. But the bass, drums, and vocals convey something more is going on emotionally on the surface to accompany an already heavy themed song lyrically.
Another beautiful track is ‘Disposition’, a different change of pace for the record as it’s a more acoustically charged piece. Staying in vein with its mellisonant guitar tones and its forthright lyricism, the band delivers an amazing piece that paints a musical picture of missing someone even though experiences with them were less than fruitful. It’s a song that is identifiable on many levels and a phenomenal way to end a deep and insightful lyrical journey for the band. This album is revolved around the theme of trying to move on with hurtful memories and a damaged past as it is about finding yourself in the aftermath of such circumstances, something the band has done extremely well in conveying for us on such a small album. For fans of alternative post-hardcore bands that appreciate a lyrically open album with brilliant instrumental composition, this album is worth the listen. SA
The Amity Affliction - Misery Aussie metalcore act The Amity Affliction are making waves in the scene with the release of their album, ‘Misery’ through Roadrunner Records. The twelve track piece moves into a more nu-metal-esque area and serves to impress on several fronts. Ultimately, ‘Misery’ winds up being separated into three categories for me; opening with the hard hitters and followed with the tracks that seem to be the most “nu-metal-y” (for lack of a better word), and the last three tracks being the most instrumental and groove driven. For the most part, I quite enjoy the beginnings and ends of this album. I’m not too keen on the middle tracks in this regard and it’s because with such a strong opening and ending, I would’ve hoped to keep the pace up on all fronts of the album not just the initial and closing impressions. The album opens with ‘Ivy (Doomsday)’ which is an appropriate choice for the opening because this track (and the following 3 tracks thereafter) is arguably the hardest hitter on this album. In some regards, ‘Misery’ is reminiscent of an older era Linkin Park with a harder twist on vocals. Throughout the whole album they maintain a massive vocal style with tight, clean, and abrasive screams. ‘Holier Than Heaven’ is quite a valiant and triumph for these guys. In my opinion, this is the most successful song on the album. Not only does it balance all the elements used on this output in a seamless and easy fashion, but it also combines impeccable clean moments and screams without overpowering any other of the roles in the instrumentation. Despite the fact that most of the tracks on ‘Misery’ are successful in this regard, ‘Holier Than Heaven’ seems to be the most accessible. It shows their talents off with full potential. ‘Burn Alive’ ended up taking a little more of a pop influence to it, which in all ended up with it sounding a tad cheesy. I think this is in due part to the fact that the instrumentation is a bit lighter than its predecessors and quills darker lyrical content, which for my taste was a little unsavory. ‘D.I.E.’ was probably my least favourite on this album. Although it is a sound track and checks many boxes as far as live show play-a-bility, and catchiness, it kind of rained on my parade with the repetition over the chorus. I think this could have been a really cool track had that repetition been scaled back a bit because it got old pretty quick. ‘Beltsville Blues’ on the contrary (speaking of repetition in the chorus) had just the right amount of tasteful repetition. This is one of the more instrumentally driven songs on the album, which I really liked as a wrap up to an otherwise nu-metal influenced release. These instrumental and groove driven songs give some life to ‘Misery’ and are a breather from what might have otherwise become old hat. ‘Misery’ wraps up with ‘The Gifthorse’ which ended strong. It is slow, thoughtful, and consistent with screams over the chorus; the nature of the song ends up giving the album a lot of closure and fulfillment. Overall, these guys gave a great album and despite my qualms about some of it there in the middle, it is excellently produced and well written. LD
Man With A Mission - Chasing the Horizon After their birth in 2010, Man With A Mission emerged in Tokyo and brought a blend of nu-metal, pop, and pop punk. ‘Chasing the Horizon’ is their most recent album. I think that while this is a very clean, and appealing album, it is not my cup of tea for no other reason except that I’m not a huge fan of electro-pop. This album is quite the undertaking at 14 tracks long, and each track is impeccably well produced. My complaint here is that to me, while it is advertised as nu-metal, it really is not up that alley. I think that a better suiting title would be something along the lines of electro-pop with punk influences. Ultimately, this album is tight, and well done. LD
Monster Truck - Tru Rockers If you want a better way to start an album with a bang, then it probably doesn’t get much better than having Dee Snider featuring on the opening track, which by the way? The title track is an absolute banger of an opener all by its self! With a solid drum beat and hook laden bass line it soon starts to tear it up with an obvious crowd participation section, it is a future anthem in the making. The sermon is simply genius, the way the band fades out and the organ jumps in volume makes for a superb dynamic. As if that wasn’t a good enough start on its own, when ‘Thundertruck’ powers in to life it leaves no room to breathe, I’ve been listening to this track for a while now and it is a crushing second song that leaves you wondering where they can go next. They started on fire and they keep the fire lit, blazing and leaving us to “thrash our faces off like it’s 1985”. The pace slackens off a bit with ‘Evolution’, this takes the tempo down a few clicks but is no less catchy, as does the blues fuelled ‘Devil Don’t Care’. The groove of the guitar, just fuzzed up nicely and the vocal compliment each other well and the middle of the road feel is heightened by the mouth organ. This second album has a great dynamic, with an opening salvo such as the first two tracks it would be easy to stick with that throughout the album, but with the songs leading up to ‘Being Cool Is Over’ pulling back it makes the fast riff blasters sound even bigger. If you only heard the first two songs in advance you get, very much, the wrong idea of this album. It has its crushers, but it also has its more soulful and delicate moments such as ‘Undone’ which brings some emotive lyrics and vocals that showcase the band, perhaps more than the bangers. We know they can do them as well as anyone but it’s what else they can do that sets them out. An absolute triumph of a record for Monster Truck. AN
Cronaxia - Collapsing the Outer Structure Cronaxia is a Death Metal band hailing from Lisboa, Portugal. Considered one of the oldest death metal bands, the band has been going strong since their inception in 1997. Despite their advanced technical prowess instrumentally, the album starts to become tiresome and a little stale after the fourth track. This isn’t to say that it can’t be appreciated for its instrumental genius, but it mostly starts to sound the same despite the impressive speed and attention to detail they have as musicians. While the first half of the album sounds like much of the same drum beats and intense picking, it then starts to pick up with ‘Dimension Ratio’ which proves that this isn’t your basic death metal band, it’s death metal on steroids. While trying to talk about each awe inspiring music arrangement of each song is insane what can be said is each track has some of the best energy and intensity that hasn't been seen in a death metal band currently. While most musicians in the genre will take a small intermission to give some sort of a pallet cleanser via reaching the midpoint of the such dynamic album, for these guys this is simply out of the question. ‘Continuous Signal’ is about the only song that even remotely exudes a bit of a break from the technical mayhem as we reach the end of the album. Lyrically it stands out as some of the most intelligent written work. Overall, this band have some of the most unabating and persistent musical sounds, combined with great musical compositions and unceasing technical speed, these guys are trying to be inventive in what is otherwise a difficult genre to play around with. Though the deep growls vocally are pretty simple for the most part, that’s about the only thing that puts their music in a tough spot. Instrumentally and lyrically this gives death metal a huge step up. For fans of Death metal with a technical flare, this is at least worth a listen on that merit alone. SA
White Denim - Performance Austin Texas indie rockers White Denim are back with a new album named ‘Performance’ the band's eighth studio album and the follow up to ‘Stiff’ which came out in 2016. The band has been building on the success they achieved with their early work as well as on the live circuit. Recording the album in Austin this album is the band’s chance for a fresh start. White Denim use a lot of different elements in their music and though some people class them as indie rock I think that there is a lot more to the band’s sound. The album opens with the lead single ‘Magazin’ it has quite the catchy rhythm at its center with a funky up-tempo beat that is given even more sound by the uses of various brass instruments. It sets the bar on this album high form the word go. The title track ‘Performance’ keeps the upbeat tempo with vocals of James Petralli along with his guitar sound combining well with the rest of the band again. The song is very catchy at its center and you can’t help but want to move around to the sound the band puts out of the speakers. The whole album is only 33mins long but in that short space of time the band channel all their energy and focus into their enjoyable style of music. Songs like ‘Double Death’ with its deep sweet grove tones to it, James Petralli really works his guitar in this one and the reward is a solo that is a true treat for the ears and a sound that you will want to hear over and over again.
‘Moves On’ follows and the band don’t let up they just keep grooving their way through this record seamlessly. Even the more pronounced use of keyboards isn’t out of place and they know it too. The second single taken from the album ‘It Might get Dark’ has a lot more of a blues-rock feel to it just to change things a little bit but never the less it’s still going to make you want to move your feet and probably every other part of your body as well. The band just keep going from strength to strength. On ‘Sky Beaming’ the band gets a bit more unusual and it has added elements of an acoustic sound in it alongside an interment feel. It all builds up throughout the track to the big triumph ending where everyone is playing together to create quite the sound to end on. We move into ‘Good News’ it’s got a more country music feel to it and it gives James Petralli’s vocals a chance to shine over his guitar skills for a change. It makes for an interesting way to end the album. ‘Performance’ is one hell of a catchy album, and all the guys in White Denim should be immensely proud of what they have accomplished with it. Fans old, new and even casual will enjoy it, it’s all about good old fashioned rock and roll and it’s an outstanding “Performance.” LS
The Kooks - Let's Go Sunshine Brighton based indie rockers The Kooks have returned with their latest offering ‘Let’s go Sunshine’. The band broke on to the UK music scene in 2006 with their first album ‘Inside In/Inside Out’. The Kooks are very much mainstays of the UK indie scene and they have inspired many others. This is a large album holding 14 songs as well as an into track. It’s a somewhat different style to what the band has done before leaning more towards a pop music style than that of the indie sound the band is known for which for some songs works and for other songs simply does not. Fans of the band are going to take this new direction with either interest or anger! Personally I think the band is doing the right thing by trying something new and evolving with the times. In terms of songs on the album The Kooks at times don’t shy away from their original sound with songs like ‘Kids’, ‘Weight of the World’ and ‘No Pressure’ which will please the older fan that came to love the band with their debut album. If you’re a newer fan there’s enough here to keep you interested. ‘Honey Bee’ is something special, as the song was written by lead singer Luke Pritchard’s late father and through the magic of modern technology they were able to put his vocals from the original recording into this track. Here I believe is what the focal point of this album is. It’s the old “kooks” style mixing with the new style, for them, they have of course evolved over every album into fathers and husbands with a lot of experience to show for it in life as well as in music. The Kooks latest offering isn’t a game changer by any means and probably the worst track on it has what I think is the best title ‘Tesco Disco’! A “chart topper” is clearly not what the band tried to do. They clearly wanted to do something different. It does succeed in places but even where it falls a little flat it will do nothing to stop the hardcore fans enjoying it. LS
Alice In Chains - Ranier Fog Seattle legends return with the third album since William DuVall took over the vocal duties from Layne Staley, I say took over, it simply isn’t possible to replace a vocalist of the Layne Staley calibre. That said, he does an unbelievable job, he is very similar which at times makes it eerie and forces the need for a double take, of course Jerry Cantrell’s backing harmonies bring a lot to the table, but it is still an awesome job done by DuVall. It has been five years since ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here’, not that the band have been idle with extensive touring over the years, but ‘Rainier Fog’ was well worth the wait and makes a fantastic addition to the Alice in Chains catalogue. ‘The One You Know’ opens things with an off-beat droll intercut with melodic licks before the vocals enter and bring all the emotive melodies and harmonies. It creates something that sounds uncomfortable to listen to but brings with it a dark beauty that is expected of Alice in Chains. The title track brings a more high tempo, foot tapping beat while a song such as ‘So Far Under’ harks back to the ‘Facelift’ album with its brooding vocal and catchy hooks that swirl around before a superb doubled up solo. ‘Never Fade’ keeps up the hooks and is simply catchy, they make it sound so easy too in the way only a band that is as tight as they are can. This album certainly tops the previous album comfortably, it adds further fuel to the fire of which era is best. I’m slightly biased as Alice in Chains were my favourite of the bands that came up in that explosion of the early 90s. It does have to be said though, this album is up there. Alice in Chains continue to make stunning music that can be dated back to the 90s but also fresher than a lot of what is out there today. ‘Rainier Fog’ is an album certain to be in a sizeable chunk of top records of 2018. AN
Death Cab For Cutie - Thank You For Today Death Cab for A Cutie have returned with a brand new album, their first in three years and also their first without guitarist and backing singer Chris Walla since he left the band in 2014. It’s also 20 years since the band burst onto the scene with their debut album ‘Something about Aeroplanes’. The band released 3 singles from the album, the first one ‘Gold Rush’ was then followed by ‘I Dreamt We spoke Again’ and finally ‘Autumn Love’. ‘Gold Rush’ is singer Brad Gibbard’s love letter to his beloved Seattle and how the city has changed over his lifetime, how he mourns the loss of the buildings and neighbourhoods of his youth saying “please don’t change, stay the same.” He continues the feeling of loss “Oh how I feel like a stranger here/ Searching for something that’s disappeared.” In Brad’s vocals you can really feel just how sincere and emotional he is in the words he’s saying. You can see why the band chose to lead with this single. Another of the singles ‘Autumn Love’ is a mix of an electronic sound mixed in with guitars. It provides an unusual sound that for me just doesn’t work maybe as well as it could. The lyrics, rather than address the issues of modern love, skirt around the issues itself and the use of clichés in the lyrics gets really old, really fast. Another song that has a lot in common with ‘Autumn Love’ is ‘When We Drive’, and more so again with the lyrical side of things talking about lost love and friends and family. It’s something that dominates a lot of the lyrics on this album and after a while it does become rather uninteresting. On the music side of things a lot of the songs on ‘Thank you for Today’ try to create an atmosphere, but it doesn’t really work. The last track ‘60 & Punk’ lets the release finish on a strong note, much like with ‘Autumn Love’ and ‘Gold Rush’ it has that reflective tone to it as Brad Gibbard is looking back at growing up as a punk fan and how the times have changed. ‘Thank You For Today’ has its best tracks scattered throughout the album and for me out of the band’s last 3 or 4 albums this is probably the best of them. Some of the songs I feel do miss their mark sometimes in regards to either the song structure or the lyrics, but it gives the band something to work on going into the next album. LS
Ominous Eclipse - Sinister Ominous Eclipse is one of the newer bands to step foot into the death metal genre. With this being their sophomore release, it was not an album that most will be blown away by at first. But like most death metal treatments in albums, it is very much a technical genre that allows the listener to delve into the music more than once to really understand the magic of what these artists are trying to create, for the audience and for the band itself. While they haven’t been out for a very long time it is easy to see why they are getting attention. With its undeniably relentless guitar riffs mixed with clean and crisp percussive elements, instrumentally Ominous Eclipse creates so many great harmonies that feel very reminiscent of bands like Children of Bodom and the Black Dahlia Murder. While the vocals for this band are pretty much your standard deep guttural growls that we are used to hearing in such pieces of music, it is the way the vocals experiments with his lows and highs that really offsets them from other bands of the same vein. Thematically, the they tend to delve into some personal and moral issues of humanity, making this an interesting listening experience from track to track. What really makes this stand out are the guitar melodies and solos that are so carefully put together by Murphy and James Close. How they transfer from soft and gloomy to chaotically intense riffs throughout really shows the talent these two guys have. They are willing to experiment and keep things interesting instrumentally without sacrificing the sound they are trying to go for, which old and new fans will appreciate. Fundamentally, for a band this new they are quite impressive. However, it seems that there is too much emphasis on guitar and drums and a little less bass activity on here. While it can be heard for the most part, it seems that not enough is happening for the bassist to really stand out and shine among the other band mates. Overall, this is quite an interesting listen for those that are interested in a new band to add to their death metal playlist. SA
WSTR - Identity Crisis Despite the title of the new album being ‘Identity Crisis’, nothing could be further from the truth. The band seems to be content with their sound and it shows through on this new album. From the get go, this record is a snake that has just shed its skin. It’s a much more pronounced and refined and polished sound compared to its predecessor ‘Red, Green, or in Between’ back in 2017. The first track ‘Tell Me More’ is dynamic and energetic, definitively setting the tone for what’s to come for the next ten songs on the album. With an echo of nostalgic pop punk hidden in its guitar riffs, it is sure to please a plethura of pop punk junkies as well as fans of this new and up and coming band from the UK. ‘Back to the Bone’ is one of the fun tracks on this album that is just as punchy and energetic as the first. From its creative use of guitars and interesting usage of lyrics, it provides more of a reason to continue to listen to this output. ‘Promiscuous’ is one of those listens that takes us back nostalgically to a more “New Found Glory” type energy in their earlier days and makes it relevant to today’s generation of young punk rock lovers. With its stimulating and rigorous guitar at play, it’s hard to pass this up without going back to listen to it at least three more times. ‘Hide Everything Sharp’ is another song that stands out as it has a unique lyrical and vocal tempo and an infectious chorus that is bound to have many singing along with each and every listen to this album. ‘Silly Me’ is great for its “sing songy” vocal qualities. It’s what some might consider to be a simple arrangement, but it’s sometimes the simplest of arrangements that work best if done effectively.
While all these tunes are great in their own right, ‘Crisis’ is a song that presents a creative wave like effect lyrically and vocally. It takes us by surprise with a killer and very effective guitar solo. ‘Ashtray’ is by far one of the more underrated ones as it has an addicting instrumental backdrop combined with a bittersweet lyrical presence. These songs are the cream of the crop on the album when it comes to presenting a sound that will be unforgettable by this band. ‘See You In Hell’ really delves into creating new sounds from the band to hit the audience with. With its acoustic like flavours combined with a unique use of distorted guitars, it is sure to be a winner with its acoustic craftsmanship. While songs like ‘See You In Hell’ take an acoustic turn from all the punk energy it represents throughout the album, we also have a little bluesy gem ‘Fling’ that is another different step in creativity for the band. ‘Riddle Me This’, is the perfect song to end a fantastic album with, as it represents all that pop punk was and still is today in one musical swoop. This is the same WSTR that we have all come to love and appreciate only with a bigger, fuller, and “risktaking aura” that surrounds the album. It exposes a side of WSTR we have seen done better along with other shades of musical styles that have not vet been ventured into by them. So many bands try so hard to be noticed by record producers and the common collective of fans that they often miss the mark of why bands like WSTR are so successful. Yes, it’s okay to be driven to create a sound that places you in the top ranks among those that have “made it”, but it’s also about having fun with what you do musically. It’s a fun and engaging record throughout. SA
Muncie Girls - Fixed Ideals Though we haven’t heard too much from this band since 2016, they are finally back with a new album that has changed the way we really see them lyrically and instrumentally. ‘Fixed Ideals’ is a great album comprised with thirteen songs that delve into a multitude of themes such as sexism, relationships, politics, and mental health. It’s not really a surprise given the current political climate of today for bands to talk about such things, but it’s all about presentation that makes us pay attention to these songs. Muncie Girls bring these issues to the forefront in a poppy and fun way. Hekt’s approaches this with humour whilst at the same time having a hidden edge within her words. Her personal but highly relate-able lyrics make this album so connectable for these reasons. ‘Jeremy’ and ‘High’ are what sets the precedence for the rest of the album as the sound is full bodied with instrumental and lyrical prowess. Hekt takes us through a journey of different types of problems from an unfavourable stance of right wing political issues to delving into mental issues in ‘Clinic’. The album then takes a different route with a more acoustic vibe on ‘Hangovers’ which talks about alcoholism. Compared to the first half of the album this a different change of energy, yet still keeping the deep resonant feeling of the drums that has remained constant up to this point. Songs like ‘High’, ‘In Between Bands’, and ‘Locked Up’ stand out on the album for their undeniable personal lyricism but also have an energetic instrumental universal appeal. McMullen and Ellis completes Hekt’s lyrical stories with McMullen’s obvious guitar skill and Ellis’ very deep noticable and bold percussion. Instrumentals that are both sewn together very well from start to finish. This album has a lot going on in terms of lyrical movement, from the clean crisp performance of the instrumentals throughout. However, as clean and polished as this album is it could have afforded to take more risk. Overall, the band clearly show that they are willing to go the extra mile to create memorable lyrical pieces. SA
Emp!re - Glue Energetic, full of melody, Emp!re have had support of some of the industries heavy hitters in the years since their formation. With their debut they will guarantee more of the same as they push their name to more ears then before with this stylish full debut album. Technically it’s very good, the songs are well structured with plenty going on but not so much as to take away from the songs and make them feel over done and busy. It is a fine line, but one they tread well and comfortably. Straight from the opening blast of ‘Colour Of Shame’ the melodies are flying with vocalist Joe Green carrying things with an extremely impressive vocal range. Able to hit the high notes but also keeping a firm melody with it. These songs sound HUGE, and it will be great to hear how they translate to the live setting because they just cry out for audience participation. This is a band with a chance to do big things, and this album is only going make them bigger and better. AN
We Were Promised Jetpacks - The More I Sleep The Less I Dream We Were Promised Jetpacks are an indie rock band from Edinburgh, Scotland. Their fourth album, ‘The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream,’ was released on 14th September 2018, and consists of 10 tracks. The first track, 'Impossible' starts off with strange but soothing synths, and drums can be heard gently in the background, along with guitars. The instrumental builds up as the song goes on, lasting for a total of 1 minute 40 seconds, which gives the album a nice introduction. The vocals by Adam Thompson (who also plays guitar) are soft, and the instrumental isn't as intense. The guitar is more prominent during the verses, showing off Michael Palmer's talent. The second track, 'In Light' starts off with a more intense instrumental, which is a stark contrast to the last track, and ought to catch the listener's attention. Drums lead this song and also the third song, 'Someone Else's Problem', which is sadly where problems arise. The repetition of words that make up the lyrics could become too much for some. The sixth track, ‘Improbable’ is a little interlude, which is quite calming, and offers a nice introduction to the seventh output, ‘When I Know More’, which is a very danceable listen - although it’s quite short - and has a groovy beat to it. The guitar work is very strong on this song, however, this means that the drums sadly don't get much time to shine. The ninth song, ‘Repeating Patterns’ is an uptempo listen, and the vocal and instrumental production is very impressive, however the shouted vocals at the end feel a bit forced. ‘The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream’ is a nice, mellow continuation from the last tune, however, the vocals are very soft and hard to hear. The softness of the outro vocals are calming and are suitable. In conclusion, ‘The More I Sleep The Less I Dream’ is a very strong album instrumental wise, although the vocal production can be just a little bit pitchy in places. KB
Living With Lions - Island 'All The Same (Intro)' starts off with a simple bass drum, and a gentle guitar tune as the vocals take the lead. The vocals are rough, and remind the listener of Derek DiScanio, the vocalist from State Champs. It's a short but sweet introduction, clocking in at 2 minutes and 23 seconds long. 'Second Narrows', the second song in the album, starts off with a thumping instrumental introduction before the fantastic vocals kick in, showing off vocalist Chase Brenneman's range. The shouter vocals during the chorus contrast greatly with the more gentler vocals of the verses, but they do not feel forced. The backing vocals on pre-chorus are typical pop-punk, but sound perfect. The guitar solo that fades out the song is fantastic, showing off the production section of the album. ‘Tidal Wave' has a cymbal beat that is the introduction of the song, before kicking off a guitar solo that's destined to start off any circle pit when played live. The vocals are shouty on this track, but they suit the instrumental. The faded backing vocals are the highlight of the song, as they give a good alternative to the shouty vocals, although sadly they aren't used as much. Guitars introduce 'Dusty Records', which gives them a chance to shine because they were often overshadowed by the drums. This time, it's the drums that take a backseat. The vocals are more 'clean', and suit the calmer tones of the song. The almost ballad like vocals on the bridge almost lull the listener into a pop/punk sleep. The haunting vocals start off 'The Remedy', and match the calmer tones of 'Dusty Records'. 'Interlude' gives the listener a break from the fast pace of 'On A Rope', before things kick in with 'Plastic Flowers', which is a stereotypical pop/punk number. Luckily, 'Night Habits' is a softer song, and adds some variety to the album with a gentler guitar melody, and the vocals are more singing than shouting. In conclusion, Living With Lions show off the generic pop/punk sound. Overall, ‘Island’ is an enjoyable album from start to finish. KB
30 Miles - Short Tales For Braves While the band hasn’t put out a record since 2012 with ‘The Smiles of Rage and Paranoia’ and its deluxe release in 2015, they are still proving in 2018 that they are ready to take the pop punk world by storm. Each piece of music represents the journey of each of these musicians, their feelings, emotions, and the pressures of life all into one immersive 7 track experience. While each song is given its own dynamic character and is extensive in length, the songs are meant to give the impression of what their lives have endured over the past few years, thus why it’s so conveniently named ‘Short Tales for Braves’. Songs that really put this band on the map from this album are ‘The Forest’, ‘Candle Thief’, Their Brains Upside Down’, and ‘Painter On Panic’. They are awesome for a number of reasons, mainly because the music structure changes with each tune. We go through this emotional journey through each of of these tracks that are playfully written while at the same time being mixed with very deep and complex lyrics. This record is very interesting in terms of story telling lyrically and instrumentally, with no tracks sounding quite like the other. While there are some songs that don’t have much of an impact on the release, it can be respected that so much creativity was placed into making very diverse and immersive musical pieces so that fans and soon to be fans can better understand their world that has been laid out before us to experience and enjoy all at the same time. It’s the kind of energy and creativity that this genre needs right now, and this band seems to have a knack for it. SA
The Five Hundred - Bleed Red The Five Hundred are an English heavy metal band from Nottingham. Their album, ‘Bleed Red’, was released on 17th August 2018, and features 10 songs. The opening song and titular track, 'Bleed Red', kicks off with in your face unclean vocals from vocalist, John Eley. His clean vocals on the verse with a continuous guitar riff - played to perfection by guitarists, Mark Byrne and Paul Doughty - give a nice contrast to the aggressiveness of the unclean vocals, which include heart pounding beats by drummer, Liam Perez. The production is good on all the songs, especially 'Buried', as the pounding instrumentals don't distract the listener from the vocals, which also fade out on the outro of the song, which nicely leads onto the next listen. 'Oblivion', which starts off with an acoustic guitar before going into a heart pounding drum beat that's destined to start off some mosh pits when played live. However, it's in the 6th track, 'Reclusive' where things start to go a little downhill as - although the drums do not distract the listener from the clean vocals - the production on it has made the clean vocals seem to be reclusive as they are quieter than the drums. 'The Narcissist' starts off with a piano and electronics, which adds some more variety. In ‘I Am the Undead’, the unclean vocals are a little messy on the production side. Luckily, the final track, ‘Circles’ brings the album to a promising close as it starts off with a a slow guitar melody before kicking off into a drum breakdown and then going back to the slower tempo. In conclusion, ‘Bleed Red’ is an excellent album that - despite a few production issues here and there presents a promising new metal band, that end the album on unclean vocals that makes the listener beg for more. KB
PVMNTS - Better Days The first song, ‘Chemical Trails’ starts off with a formulaic vocal range from vocalist Tyler Posey, and a pop/punk 101 guitar tone and drum beat, which might turn listeners off because it’s very familiar. Luckily, during the middle of the song, the guitar tone varies a bit, and the drums get a good time to shine, showing off drummer, Nick Guzman’s talent. The backing vocals by guitarist/bassist and vocalist Freddy Ramirez - who also gets a sweet guitar outro - compliment the main vocals. On ‘Hit the Ground’, the main vocals are better, but it’s the backing vocals that really make it. Despite the guitar and drums still being a little formulaic in places, this is still one of their best ones so far on the EP.
‘Standing (On My Own Two Feet)’ is an upbeat, more guitar centred song. The main vocals have a nice rough edge to them, and the drum beat is consistent through the second verse. However, it’s easily forgettable compared to ‘White Walls (Better Days)’. The production is very good on this one, with the main vocals and drums being very powerful. The acoustic guitar gives the song a calming outro, and it works well before the fast and energetic final output ‘Heavy Moon’, which is certain to start mosh pits when played live. The screaming gives it the edge of individuality over the other pop/punk approaches. In conclusion, although like I have mentioned, it is somewhat formulaic at times, PVMNTS’ debut EP shows the potential the band have to give, and is a strong opening for a new band that should gain popularity from both the pop and the punk world. KB
Mewithoutyou - (untitled) ‘Bethlehem, WV’, starts off with a slow guitar melody and a gentle drum beat that can be heard in the background. Vocalist Aaron Weiss’ voice starts off soft, reminiscent of folk songs. The drums intensify as the song progresses, showing off the talent of the drummer, Rickie Mazzotta in the background of the chorus. Weiss’s vocals in the verses are soft, compared to the intense vocals of the chorus, giving the it a nice contrast. In ‘Cities of the Plain’, a piano can be heard with electronic distortion, but it’s the combination of vocals and the drums that dominate the song. The drums, however, know when to slow down in order to not distract the listener from the vocals. ‘Existential Dread, Six Hours’ Time’ , has the same formula of electronic sounds and a keyboard that introduces the song becomes repetitive. Furthermore, the vocals can’t be heard as well over the instrumental as they seem to be at the same volume. The vocals are a bit stronger on the next track - entitled ‘August 6th’ - especially as the instrumentals and vocals mix at first, but then the vocals come out, impressively showing off Weiss’ vocal range. The guitars get a bit of the limelight on this song as well, allowing guitarists Michael Weiss, and Brandon Beaver, and bassist Greg Jehanianis some time to show off the bridge and outro of the song. ‘Kirsty w/ the Sparkling Teeth’ starts with a medium tempo beat, however, the vocals are hard to hear because they are very soft compared to the heavy instruments, therefore making the instruments the clear winner, especially the guitar and drums! In conclusion, mewithoutYou’s (untitled) EP starts off strong with an impressive vocal range and great instruments, however, the instruments then take over the vocals a little bit too much. KB
One Hidden Frame / Thousand Oaks - Antipodes It seems that two of Europe’s finest bands when it comes to the world of Skatepunk and melodic hardcore have come together to give us a split record, featuring two songs from each band. Each song is a pleasure to hear, with its zestful hard hitting guitar riffs and lively percussion work, it is sort of hard not to get wrapped up in all of its energy in one sitting. An addictive and unique presence is featured throughout with each band bringing something different and unique to the table with each of their two songs. One Hidden Frames ‘Quicksand’ really brings its edgy technical prowess and passion together in one song and ultimately will stand out as one of the two best on this split. While One Hidden Frame have their own little gem, it seems that Thousand Oaks have one of their own with ‘Born to Play War’. It really doesn’t begin to explain how talented this band is with the perfect combination of melodic guitar and fast paced and exciting percussion elements featured throughout. Overall, this is an exciting and fresh collaboration for the two bands, and rest assured it is bound to gain some popularity as it ecomes more familiar with fans and and lovers of skatepunk and melodic hardcore as well. This is also really cool idea that other bands should continue to pursue and explore, especially up and coming bands. FFO: Propagandhi, Strung Out, and A Wilhelm Scream. SA
Coast To Coast – The World Doesn’t Work West Midlands very own Coast to Coast had revealed sometime back in August that they would be releasing their forthcoming third EP ‘The World Doesn’t Work’ due out late October via Fox Records. Though the band really became well known after their ‘Dwell’ EP back in 2016, their sophomore EP ‘The Length of a Smile’ is what officially put them on the map to be contenders in the pop rock genre. Sticking with Ian Sadler from Emeline Studios and Grant Berry of Fader for mastering the album, it was time to take Coast to Coast in a new direction. Kieran Hyland confirmed that the title of the EP very much represents negative experiences and how they can affect you and your loved ones.The EP title also conveniently represents a lyric in the song ‘Boxing’ which Hyland claims “refers to a time where he felt low and isolated with a warped view of the world.” Nothing could be more true as this could also be a view that consumes many of the tracks on the entire EP. Memorable moments include ‘The Sun is Dim’ and ‘Good and Grim’. Though they are some of the best on the EP, it presents a window into someone’s views on life and the world. Pessimistic and negative lyrically as it may be, the post summery pop guitar riffs, deep resonant drums, and open room vocals keep these tracks feeling light even though the lyrical content is dark. Though much of the lyrical content is derived from Hyland’s own relationships with his father, many of the albums lyrics are written in a way that creates a personal bond with the listener and the music. While it is one way for Hyland’s experiences, the lyrics often are open to interpretation, which means no two listeners will form the same opinions, something that is one of Hyland’s strongest assets as a lyricist. This release doesn’t leave space for the listener to breathe lyrically, as it is deep and heavy in symbolism. But it can be said that this was intended for the themes that run throughout. Though instrumentally it is beautifully composed, lyrically it keeps the brain thinking and for these reasons it is worth listening to. If you are a fan of bands such as Lower than Atlantis, Fatherson, and Deaf Havana then this will definitely be of interest to you.
SA Why Everyone Left – This Is Not A Test Italian pop punk band Why Everyone Left have always been known for their doit-yourself attitude since 2013 when it comes to writing and producing their own music. Due out in November, ‘This Is Not a Test’ seems to be the EP where they have found their sound and their place in the genre of pop punk rock music. This didn’t always start out that way as band members Luca (drums), Luca Bi (bass) and Thomas (guitar) were all products of bands that had gone sour. With no one in the local scene to turn to for a serious career path in music, they eventually found each other and told themselves that they would cement themselves as the upbeat pop punk quartet we have come to see this year. With Enzo (Vocalist) producing and recording all the bars and drums himself and popular mixer for Neck Deep, WSTR, and As it Is Seb Barlow handling the mixing it is easy to see that why this EP still contains a lot of their raw DIY musical theme with a more clean and polished sound. Aside from its technical showpoints that so clearly deserve praise, this is an overall fun and and exciting release from start to finish. With Enzo’s unique, infectious vocals followed with big vibrant and spirited guitar riffs and clean and punchy drum patterns featured through out, it’s impossible to not listen to this over and over again without hearing something new to love about each and every output. ‘Stand By’ is one of the standout songs on this EP, with its effective, fun, post summer sounding style. Lyrically it’s a smart, genuine song combined with vigorous rhythm guitar riffs, and a deep passionate bass line and percussion elements that make you feel it in your core. ‘Bouch’ takes us back to old school pop punk with addictive vocals and lyricism whilst Lucas’s drumming take center stage. Though an energetic listen throughout, ‘Deed Inside’ is one of the deeper and sadder tracks on the record while still keeping the energy interlaced with a heavy, more emotional theme. Respectfully, this is a brilliant release for this Italian pop punk band. Each song is mixed well while lyrically and instrumentally this will forever be one of the band’s best pieces of music. This is sure to keep you coming back again and again. SA
Rise Against - The Ghost Note Symphonies, Vol.1 This album features ten reimagined versions of previously released songs, with acoustic orchestration and alternative instrumentation. The band are trying something new by showing their more hopeful and calm side. The very popular ‘The Violence’ starts this album and has more sorrowful tones and vulnerable moments than the original which works wonderfully without changing the song too much. It makes for a good representation of what they want to achieve from this compilation. ‘Faint Resemblance’ also sees a more fragile approach and is delivered with a ukulele instrumental instead, helping to give it a different sound. ‘House On Fire’ is another great example of the change of the original with its composition. The biggest track ‘Savior’ is epically stripped back but still equally as powerful as the original version. It is beautiful, sombre and has an almost folk feel at times. This release shows a more fragile and mellow side to the band which is interesting and offers a new take on their already popular collection of songs and transforms them into equally memorable and striking compositions, making it a treat for any Rise Against fan. CL Returning to the epic saga that is The Armory Wars, Coheed and Cambria bring the kind of epic, progressive metal that they have made a career out of, with eight albums, seven of them (including this one) have been of the concept variety. It perhaps cements them as the kings of the concept record.
Coheed And Cambria - The Unheavenly Creatures Bands may do a concept album at some point in their career, but Coheed have made the idea their own as they continue to work in the concept world. Things open up in a tender way, a lone piano before the spoken word and melodic guitars continue to build things up into ‘The Dark Sentencer’. A midtempo track that brings plenty of harmonies and Claudio beginning to stretch his vocal chords. This one along with the opening ‘Prologue’ are setting a scene to a typically epic Coheed and Cambria album. The title track brings in some electronic elements along with soaring verses, big guitars and sweeping melodies, the break downs crash back into life bringing some great dynamics to the sound. With the vocals moving between clean, angelic and spitting out some venom at points there is plenty of attitude to throw in as well to dirty it up. The production is first class, some albums can sound too polished and this one does just that, only it serves what they are trying to do, the sound is huge, the harmonies are crisp and having done the production themselves for the most part, they have ticked another big box for themselves. Songs such as ‘Toys’ bring a distinct 70s rock feel, although undoubtably aged to todays, there is a real soul of the song being in those rock glory days. Clocking in at a mammoth 78 minutes it is one that you will need to find time to sit down and listen to or get it fired up in the car for a long journey because this isn’t an album you want to just pick up and listen to bit by bit. It is an album that while easy on the ears, deserves to be absorbed and soaked up. It isn’t going to be a one listen wonder either, this one will find itself on regular rotation. It is their longest, biggest and quite possibly best album to date, in a year that has been littered with plenty of great releases so far, this one takes its place among them comfortably. It is hands down one of the best in 2018, there isn’t going to be much that tops it. AN
Trophy Eyes - The American Dream Trophy Eyes are back with their third album ‘The American Dream’, released through Hopeless Records. Opening song ‘Autumn’ is very upbeat instrumentally with contrasting deep vocals from John Floreani. It is very catchy and powerful, making for a perfect choice to kick things off. ‘Something Bigger Than This’ features more emotive raw vocals from John and has a “bigger” sound than the opening, aided by group vocals. This was made for a live setting and will surely be a fan favourite that everyone can participate in. ‘More Like You’ is another anthemic fan favourite, with more group chants that make this hard to forget and give it a massive sound. It also features some fierce effective vocals that are heartfelt. This is a real stand out moment that shines and should be heard. Single ‘You Can Count On Me’ is high spirited and again features the characteristic feel good group chants. It is lyrically relatable, super catchy and is a well-rounded track which shows off all their best elements and all members have their moment, whereas ‘Tip Toe’ is an unexpected fragile offering which shows their vulnerable side and is executed well. It keeps things unpredictable and more diverse. ‘Miming In The Choir’ is powerful, melodic and edgy. It is a dynamic and rich song which stands out, especially having more of a darker feel. Final song ‘I Can Feel It Calling’ displays John’s best shouts/screams, it is largely fast paced and when it gets going it’s full throttle, with great energy. It’s different and wraps the release up nicely, maintaining that allconsuming and strong sound that is shown throughout. This is a massively enjoyable and uplifting album which is full of rock anthems and striking songs. There is something for everyone as they have the balance of soft and hard moments down to a tee. CL
As We Go / Team Stereo - SPLIT Team Stereo and As We Go unite for a joint split release after supporting each other throughout their career’s to create a genuine free spirited release, embracing the essence of friendship and punk. Team Stereo launch into this split release with ‘Not Loving You’ which has bouncy upbeat riffs and beats, and eases us in nicely for the rest of the EP. Keeping with Team Stereo ‘Standards’ follows and is about the disillusionment of getting older and growing up. “When we grow older, things are somewhat sobering up but we also appreciate the little things more and our own little happiness”, says frontman Chrisse Biehl and the song captures this well through the instruments and sound in this relatable but highly enjoyable track. Switching to As We Go, it is immediately obvious that it is a different band but it still flows on well, with the punk vibes remaining strong and vibrant with ‘City’ which is catchy and powerful and most importantly exudes a fun attitude. Their final song ‘Brothers’ is comforting and satisfying musically and lyrically. This is a short but very sweet split release which is refreshing and highlights a fun and friendly punk atmosphere in a kindred bond which is spontaneous and authentic. CL
Slash - Living The Dream 'The Call Of The Wild' starts off with a guitar tune that sounds like it belongs in the funk genre, before kicking into a rock n' roll solo that brings back that 80s nostalgia. The vocals by Myles Kennedy kick in with a similarity to Axel Rose, but this isn't a bad thing because they soon take a life of their own, and any similarity to Axel is quickly forgotten. The drums are fast and heavy, but don't take the attention away from the guitar or the vocals. The long note at the end of the song highlights an explosive opening to this album. 'My Antidote' starts off with a soft drum beat and soothing backing vocals before launching into a guitar solo that emphasises Slash's talent. Kennedy's vocals are very strong on this track, and there's even a guitar solo half way through in order for listeners to remember that this is Slash's album. The drums unfortunately don't get a time to show off as much due to only being the backing drums. 'Mind Your Manners' displays Kennedy's vocals range, as he continues going from strength to strength on each verse, switching between quieter vocals to huge power rock vocals by the end of the track. The guitar and drums combination are very effective as well. 'Lost Inside The Girl' is a 6 and a half minute output that's very slow but soothing, and is a good contrast to the rockier tracks the listener has heard so far, however, as it is very slow, it could be boring to some listeners due to the length. 'Read Between The Lines' picks things up as its uptempo chorus would get everyone dancing if played live, and the softer vocals would give the audience a good rest. Despite the name, 'Slow Grind' is an upbeat listen with a groovy guitar line that is consistent throughout. 'The One You Loved Is Gone' is a slow acoustic song that has a soft drum beat and vocals. It is also a nice change in pacing from the energetic songs, and is slightly reminiscent of 'November Rain' by Guns N' Roses. 'Boulevard Of Broken Hearts' is powerful and works very well as the closing track. The vocals, guitar and drums are all very impressive, but the vocals are the the strongest on this one. There's even a nice little 10 second guitar solo at the very end. In conclusion, 'Living The Dream' is an excellent album with very strong performances from all the band, and it's definitely for people who love 80s rock music and Guns N' Roses! KB
Smoking Martha - In Deep Smoking Martha unleash their interesting take on alt punk rock in their exciting debut album. Opening song ‘So Lonely’ features bouncy driving riffs throughout and showcases their unique fun sound, making for a good introduction. ‘To The Stars’ changes the pace, being much slower but it is still full of swagger and is a cracking song. ‘Ebb Of The Tide’ is also full of attitude and packs a punch with a Halestorm vibe. ‘One Night’ has a great rock ‘n’ roll punk sound, whereas ‘Baby Let Me Go’ is a beautiful stripped back acoustic which shows off Tasha’s impressive and distinct vocals wonderfully. This is a perfect and must hear moment on the debut. The final standard track (not including bonus demos) ‘Stranger Things’ is one of the darkest and heavier offerings, making it a memorable and hard hitting way to close this fun and feisty release. ‘In Deep’ is a vibrant, angsty and refreshing debut which will leave a lasting impression and surely will quickly assert them as a band to watch out for. CL
The Story So Far - Proper Dose The mighty The Story So Far return with their new album ‘Proper Dose’ the band have achieved international success after storming onto the scene with ‘Under Soil and Dirt’ and following up with ‘What You Don’t See’ and ‘Self Titled’. The theme running through this album is frontman Parker’s past issues with drugs and dealing with the process. The album opens with title track ‘Proper Dose’ a really uplifting number despite the theme of the song and takes us through Parker’s journey during right from the beginning through to the solution which is where he wants to be part of his cousin’s growth and see him succeed. The excellent drum pattern and summery riff creates a perfect opener. ‘Keep This Up’ is a fast pop punk number which reminds me a lot of Blink-182 and The Wonder Years ‘Upsides’ era, particularly in the chorus which is mightily impressive, the excellent production really enhances Parker’s vocals. ‘Out of It’ is your typical TSSF track with addictive hooks and a powerful chorus, again we’re taken through Parker’s drugs process but with a really uplifting tone, the music really reflects the frontman's fight to get better. ‘Take Me As You Please’ is a much softer, acoustic track and references the bands previous music which has focused on dealing with relationships - “Cause I’m done with all the noise” seems to indicate that the band are ready to put this theme behind them and move on to new subjects. ‘Let It Go’ is another track that reminds me a lot of the summery pop punk that dominated music in the early 2000’s - New Found Glory, Blink-182, Yellowcard to name a few. It fills a gap in the middle of the album and is a pretty simple number. ‘Upside Down’ is a much more melodic number with its almost R&B chorus, it deals with their struggles as they continue to grow into their 20s. It’s very personal, and the beautiful instrumentation makes it one of the best songs on the record.
‘If I Fall’ is a huge melodic anthem and it reminds me a lot of their album ‘What You Don’t See’ again it’s another positive upbeat output dealing with a very strong and personal issue - “I'm forcing myself to get better by Fall, Will you be there if I fall?” Parker admits his struggles in getting better, but asks his closest friends to be there if he falls. ‘Need to Know’ is another fast song that gets a bit lost following ‘If I Fall’ they could almost fit in the same song. Parker’s vocals are not as sharp here as they are on rest of the album. ‘Line’ acts as a funky interlude before we are introduced to the final chapter of the album. ‘Growing on You’ shows genuine growth from the band, its stripped back style makes it almost a country ballad, the chorus is particularly enjoyable with its simple lyrics and relaxing tone. The record finishes upbeat with ‘Light Year’ which again echoes the catchy hooks and easy chorus which made the likes of Blink-182 so successful. There are themes of distrust running through this final listen which is an interesting subject to end on, showing that there are still many stages for Parker to go through before being back to his normal self. This is an interesting transition from the usual angsty record from The Story So Far, it’s encouraging to see the band find the balance between pop punk but also explore other genres to create a sound that reflects the personal theme of this record. There’s enough to keep veteran fans interested but also new sounds which will intrigue people who are not familiar with the band. JP
Aeolian – Silent Witness Melodic death metal act Aeolian from Spain unleash their debut album and highlight that death metal can be vibrant and diverse, sprinkling elements of thrash and folk in the mix. Opening track is appropriately titled ‘Immensity’ and grips you with a scream comparable to the likes of Dani Filth. It is varied and keeps you guessing throughout with brilliant melodies and dynamics. It has an added depth and reflective state with the talked part and resonant vibrant guitars. That is a damn great start to the sound of the band. ‘The End Of Ice’ keeps up the driving guitar work, with more memorable and powerful moments, from vocals through to the structure and composition. ‘My Stripes In Sadness’ is soaring and sorrowful with a stomping chorus keeping things to an impressive and high standard as seen throughout. ‘Return Of The Wolf King’ features some brilliant folk guitar moments and has a very epic feel to it and helps to add more texture and diversity to the album. Another brilliant offering is ‘Going To Extinction’ which is far reaching with blazing guitars and fierce powerful vocals. The final blow ‘Oryx’ is all consuming and melds together all their best elements in a hard hitting manner, with varied vocals, crushing and resonant guitars throughout making for a memorable and striking closing note. Aeolian are not your average death metal band, there is a lot going on here, with all 12 tracks brimming with texture and skill. It is a very enjoyable death metal album which is rich, immense and grandiose. This debut offers spectacular results. CL
Good Charlotte - Generation RX ‘Generation RX’ is a dark, vulnerable, and emotional album with deliberate intentions of speaking about addiction and what it is doing to today’s current generation of youth. This album feels very personal and almost like an unleashing of the pent up emotional baggage about today’s society, yet the messages carry themselves very well in each track. It really is a release that will help heal the pain of today’s youth, establishing that their pain isn’t going unnoticed. Songs like ‘Self Help’, ‘Prayers’, and ‘Leech’ are some of the highlights. ‘Self Help’ is very much a emotional, candid listen that while lyrically is deep, it’s semi-energetic guitars, fast paced percussion style and electronic elements make it lighter. It does seem that this was done deliberately, as there is a high focus lyrically in the album. ‘Prayers’ feels more like an acoustic electronic piece with a great guitar solo featured in the song. A reflection on school shootings, it speaks to the hollow words of prayers in the presence of tragedy. Lastly, ‘Leech’ presents itself as a different kind of output, in the vein of an alternative rock sound with guest Sam Carter from Architects. The overall use of different instrumentals embarks on orchestration influences that bands like Linkin Park and Bring me the Horizon have often succeeded in implementing such concepts into their music. Ultimately, Good Charlotte seemed to have returned on a high note in getting back to their more vulnerable and honest side to music writing. They have found their way back to themselves but in a much more mature fashion. SA
Thrice - Palms American rockers Thrice have been on the scene for two decades now and are forever expanding and experimenting with their sound and their tenth album ‘Palms’ is no exception. It highlights this more than ever. ‘Palms’ also marks their first release through Epitaph Records. The latest moody single ‘Only Us’ opens the album in a striking and resonant way, making a big atmospheric impact and sets up the album wonderfully. The first song released ‘The Grey’ that follows is bouncy and dynamic, with a great rhythm it embraces a more punk soaked aggression, with a nod to their early roots, as well as demonstrating their ability to be diverse whilst remaining coherent. The intriguing ‘The Dark’ is ambient and textured with powerful group vocals and Dustin’s vocal performance can’t be faulted, it’s an empowering track that pulls you in. ‘Just Breathe’ has a different more chilled and positive vibe with more emphasis on the drum work which is good to see, as each member gets their moment. The song seeps with vulnerability and is all the more beautiful for it. Keeping things more mellow and diverse ‘Everything Belongs’ is an unexpected but brilliant piano-driven ballad which truly highlights Dustin’s vocal capabilities in one of his most emotive performances yet. The haunting ‘My Soul’ is a more stripped back offering with an ethereal feel, with hints of blues running through it.
Picking up the angst and pace is ‘A Branch In The River’ which brings the aggression back, where it is lacking at times throughout the album. It goes back to their harsher roots. Saving some of the best tracks to last ‘Blood On Blood’ is a great example of their constant experimental sound and bares brilliant results. Closing song ‘Beyond The Pines’ is a well-rounded number to end on but most importantly it reiterates Dustin’s lyrical craft, with lines like “Somewhere down the way, there's a hidden place that anyone. That all of us could find. But all our maps have failed, so venture through the veil and realise. That these roads are intertwined.” Dustin bares his soul yet again and it makes for an appropriate and memorable finale. Known for their all-encompassing sound, they deliver yet again on all fronts and offer something different and diverse, from chilled numbers to crushing songs. They always maintain that signature and recognisable Thrice sound. They truly show how they have evolved in this album and take you on yet another cathartic journey to enlighten your soul. CL
The Armoires - Incidental Lightshow The Armoires seem to have nailed down the atmospheric, harmonic power pop genre and ‘Incidental Lightshow’ offers a good taste of what they have to offer. For those of you looking to give something different a try, these guys are for you. Initially, the album gave me a little bit of a start but once I got to ‘Unhaunted’ that all changed. The use of viola kicks these guys into a different world, and also I think it adds just enough of a prick in order to keep the album from falling into a repetitive, and what I probably would dub, awkward sound. I do think that although the vocals do a good job of layering in that atmospheric sound, I do wish they would branch out into a little bit of a more mahogany tone instead of sticking into the higher pitches. For me, doing this borders on the line between just right and too much of a good thing. A good example of this is, ‘Doubtful Sound’. Here, I think that these guys really have explored that tone and if there were more tracks like this on the album it would be at that “just right” mark. Overall, I think these guys showed good skill and technicality and displayed an excellent example of powerpop and what the genre has to offer. LD
Seasonal - Weathered I suppose this year is just the year of “every track on this release is a banger” because Seasonal with their second EP ‘Weathered’ is no exception. I did not find a single discrepancy on this EP - the entirety of it is extremely cleanly produced and balanced. All of the respective parts of each track fit perfectly with each other, so much so that I was surprised to learn that these guys are only on their second release. Their sound is matured, and seasoned to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if it was much later in their career. All of these songs debut a nostalgic, and homesick feel to the sound and in all honesty, I am all about it. ‘Drift’ does well to break up the EP a tad bit with just a hint of uplifting and triumph over the verses in a subtle yet significant way. ‘Twelve’ wraps up the EP with an anthem to the lonely and a tribute to the future. Overall, this is a fantastic example of quality work from a deserving up and coming artist. Thanks for the listen Seasonal! LD
Chasing Dragons - Faction Hailing from Leeds, UK, Chasing Dragons are a power rock n’ roll female fronted quartet. On their newest release, ‘Faction’, they have proved that they have the potential to be an unstoppable powerhouse. Really, I don’t think that any of these respective roles in the band need much tweaking or major adjusting, it’s extremely hard to deny these guys for their grit and their passion. My biggest complaint here is that while their tracks are chock full of rough and tumble energy, it does get translated as a giant wall of heavy, hitting the listener all at once. On ‘Bareknuckle Lover’ we break this up a little bit with a raunchy, and sinful pleasure filled song that is lined with syrupy vocals that still capture their signature gritty female fronted style. We also see a break in that onslaught of heavy aggression in ‘This Time Is Ours’ with a melodic and soft intro that gradually builds through the verses and chorus. Other than that, there are not a whole lot of tracks that seem to break that mass up. Although it’s undeniable these guys are going to be a force to be reckoned with, I think what will propel them even further towards that dream is filling in their vocals with a little more richness and tone, and finding a way to break up that massive aggression so that as you progress through the album it doesn’t become just one long song of white noise. LD
A Few Too Many - Solid Ground Pop punk powerhouses A Few Too Many have absolutely killed it on ‘Solid Ground’. ‘The Pitty Parade’ shows off a folk tune, and a charming lick of an accent in their vocals. This track is honest, open, and gleeful (and also my favourite, but who really cares about my opinion anyways). ‘Solid Ground’ offers a throwback, and home-y tone that is bittersweet in its finish to the EP and leaves just the right amount of longing for more. All of these tracks have a certain nostalgic quality to them which is I think perhaps why I enjoy this EP so much.
Sometimes all you really need to do is remember the things that make you smile. All of these songs are on the upper tempo swing of things, but are undeniably pop punk to a T. For those of you who are looking for a new listen in that world, then most definitely make sure to check out ‘Solid Ground’. LD
Just About Done - I Am Getting By This three track EP ‘I Am Getting By’ from Just About Done is absolutely not just getting by as the name suggests. On the top of my list are Aussie punks Just About Done for their impeccable cleanliness and packing the most punch into a short EP. ‘Strain’ takes that down home feel to pop punk (that yes, admittedly can get tiring) and turns it into something completely their own, finished with their very own female vocalist who absolutely crushes the vibes of these tracks. ‘1029’ emits Four Year Strong radar blips on an insane level which reaches those of you who are looking for something a little quicker pace in tempo. ‘Peacemaker’ is the most down-beat of the three tracks but is also one hundred percent my favourite. It’s impossible not to love a good swell in the chorus, and throw some goosebumps on your arms for good measure. If you’re looking for something that has the same emotive quality as spoken word, but with vocals that sing rather than speak, then these guys are absolutely for you. I suppose it really is the year of fabulous pop punk releases, and these guys take the cake. Wonderful job, Just About Done. LD
Camp Cope - Clwb Ifor Bach - 29/08/18 An exciting night at Clwb Ifor Bach with Camp Cope visiting the Welsh capital for the first time in their short career. The night kicked off with local band Live, Do Nothing who impressed with their funky power pop. They played a very quick set with the majority of tracks from their recently released EP ‘Oh Dear’ ‘Pseudonyms’ was a particular highlight with it’s catchy hooks and great chemistry between the band. If Live, Do Nothing were energetic, then Bristol punks Caves were ultra energetic! Always a fun band to see live, they raced through a set of melodic punk bangers - one after another. Frontwoman Lou Hanman was electric, and sang with great emotion and energy on a number of songs - the perfect set up for Camp Cope. The hotly anticipated Camp Cope took to stage, following the release of their brilliant LP ‘How To Socialise and Make Friends’ surprisingly the band chose to include many of their older tracks with unfortunately little response from the crowd, the band stopped momentarily to compliment the capital city on their castles before Georgia McDonald took over with her wonderful vocal style with ‘Face of God’ completely captivating the audience. The crowd were clearly enjoying the performance when there was a groan of sadness when the band said they had three songs left. The super talented trio finished with one of the best tracks of the year ‘The Opener’ which tells the reality of how women are treated in the music scene, the song lifted the energy in the room to a whole new level with McDonald’s angsty vocals and the beautiful bass line. ‘The Opener’ provided the perfect ending to a great night of punk music in an intimate environment.
Yungblood - 02 Academy 3 - Birmingham - 12/09/18 While warm up act Stereo Honey are good at what they do they don’t feel right for this crowd. Their blend of indie rock combined with other elements generate a spark in the audience but not as much as the band would probably desire. Their track ‘Where Nobody Knows Your Name’ brings a good moment for this band but in comparison to the next act they fall a little short. That’s not to say they aren’t good, with their instrumental moments they’re almost akin to Biffy Clyro...almost. Running onto the stage accompanied by a guitarist and a drummer, Dominic Harrison’s hair is wild, he’s throwing a beer in the air and his tongue sticking out skills are on the same level as Steve Tyler. At 21 years old this is Yungblud and he is the voice of Generation Z. Jumping straight into his hit track ‘21st Century Liability’ the energy simply radiates off him as he sucks up the applause and cheers from the massive audience he’s attracted into such a small venue. The shock on his face is clear and you can see he simply can’t believe that this many people have turned out to see him. He throws up a middle finger to the crowd and shouts “This one’s for Theresa f*ckin’ May” as he kicks into ‘King Charles’. Yungblud isn’t one to shy away from controversial topics and they’re all covered tonight from mental health issues with ‘Medication’ and ‘Anarchist’ to the song that he says “Is so important” before he begins ‘Polygraph Eyes’ a track about taking advantage of a drunk woman. He’s got a massive and loyal fanbase already as he is handed a hand drawn picture of himself out of the crowd. He screams and kisses it showing everyone before putting it to the back of the stage. So much so does his fans love him so that he even throws out a new track in the form of ‘Loner’ which gets a huge response from the crowd! They begin singing along until the very end way past when the young whipper snapper has stopped. His face lights up as he screams “I ove you all!”, “My album came out two months ago!” he shouts to a range of applause and screams. It’s so amazing to see his face light up every time he looks out into the crowd, he’s played to crowds all over the world but clearly this is a massive thing to have so many people in his own country loving his songs. The set encores with’ Machine Gun (F*ck the NRA)’ and ‘Die for the Hype’, the whole room is bouncing up and down and Yungblud has not stopped bouncing the entire time he’s been on stage. Dominic Harrison is just a typical bloke from Doncaster but Yungblud is the voice that this generation needs and thrives for. Politically charged and switched on, standing up for what’s right for everything and everyone and delivering show stopping performances. With a tour already lined up for March that’s having to increase in venue capacity the world is very soon going to get a kick at the door but before it’s answered it’ll be blown off its hinges and Yungblud will be standing, mic in hand, tongue out, hair a crazed mess and he will be king, like Jesus Christ. RO
Features interviews from the following: Alkaline Trio, Coheed & Cambria, Good Charlotte, Rise Against, Ash, The Used, The Amity Affliction,...
Published on Sep 29, 2018
Features interviews from the following: Alkaline Trio, Coheed & Cambria, Good Charlotte, Rise Against, Ash, The Used, The Amity Affliction,...