Interview with Alfie
Can you tell us how Glass Peaks originally got together? Jake (our guitarist) and Grant (our drummer) went to school together many years ago and were in various different musical projects together during that time. Jake and I met when we both worked for a terrible music exhibition for a couple of years and I actually went to see his old band quite a few times! When they stopped making music together, Jake went travelling to the States for around a year. Upon his return, he started a new project with Grant and I got involved shortly after! - that became Glass Peaks.
How did you get to the band name Glass Peaks, and what does it mean to you? “Peaks” had always been in the title due to Grant’s fascination with the show Twin Peaks. Jake always wanted something to do with nature or the feeling of fragility, and so Glass Peaks was chosen! We believe that you should always soak up and enjoy every single moment in this life, and that your art should express the deepest of any emotion that you're trying to convey (wow so cliché). It could all be over in the blink of an eye, you're always walking on your own Glass Peak.
What is it like to be an upcoming band from Kent? It's brilliant. There is some truly incredible music coming out of Kent right now and we feel very proud to be a part of the scene in general. We're huge fans of bands like Indoor Pets, Sea Girls and Broken Hands, so to even be part of the same crop of bands is incredibly exciting.
How did you end up signing to CLOSEUP, and what have they been like to work with so far? We've actually been working with CLOSEUP for a number of years in a live capacity. They've been our agents for a few years now and they were actually hugely instrumental in the early days of Glass Peaks. When they told us they were going to start a label, we were incredibly excited. When they actually asked us to become a part of that journey and release 'Misery' on the label, we were truly humbled. It made total sense for us to put that track out with them. They care very deeply about the artists they work with. Sam Tucker (who heads it all up) is a visionary. You'll be hearing his name all over the place very soon.
How did you end up working with Danny Lowman on the track 'Misery' and how would you say he helped shape the music video? We actually shot an acoustic live session in the woods out in Kent a while back with Danny and fell in love with his vision. He has this amazing gift of seeing the potential in a tiny idea and then blowing it into the stratosphere. We filmed the video for ‘Misery’ in our tiny rehearsal shed at the bottom of Grant’s garden, but he somehow managed to make it look incredibly cinematic and powerful. He is super fun to work with; we smashed the entire video out in under five hours because we were just throwing ideas out there and making them happen. Nothing was forced, it all felt very natural. Big love for Danny.
How did the Stephen King book of the same name become such a big inspiration to the track? I've always loved the book, Stephen King is an incredible writer and the story properly hooked me the first time I read it. I woke up one morning with a despicable hangover and decided to watch the movie adaptation starring Kathy Bates. It reignited my love for the story and I really got into the horror and drama of it all.
Can you tell us a bit more about how the track itself came together? It started with the guitar line from Jake, he was originally playing a three note arpeggio throughout almost the entire song. We kind of built the music around that and the track became heavier over time. I was listening to a lot of Wolf Alice at the time; I remember listening to 'Yuk Foo' on repeat for ages and really wanting a section of one of our songs to be reminiscent of that track; there's an element of chaos and destruction to it that I love. The big crescendo after the second chorus reflects that a little bit. There was also another whole bridge section that we had but our producer told us he thought it was rubbish. We quickly agreed and trashed it haha.
How did the artwork for 'Misery' come together, and what does it mean to you? Our good friend Luke Fairhead created all of the artwork for ‘Misery’. We were originally going to release an EP at the end of 2018 and had the artwork prepared for that (the pink flowers, which are actually a reference to another track of ours). When we realised we were going to leave the EP until later, we still felt the image resonated with the track, there was still a sombreness to it that fit perfectly. We commissioned Luke to create more prints referencing the ‘Misery’ lyrics soon after that to create all of the artwork as part of the single campaign. We're super pleased with how that all looks.
So, how would you say 'Misery' compares to anything else that you've done before? Musically, it's way more heavy and generally, there's way more of a concise message and theme that runs through the track. It's a piece of art in its entirety. I mean the whole thing: the song, the video, the artwork, the message it's sending out. We've never really had that before and we're really proud to have been able to bring ‘Misery’ to life in so many different ways. It was so nice to get so creative with it all.
Have you started work on any new material just yet, if so, what can we expect from it? We're always writing, so there's a lot of new material. We have the next single mixed and mastered, so you can expect to hear that very soon. There are also some demos that we're sitting on that we're really, really excited about. I think it's the most excited I've ever been about music that we've written together. It's majestic, we've given some real thought to the textures in the music. Lyric-wise, a lot of the new stuff is very selfreferential. I write a lot about my personal experiences, how things make me feel etc. I think there's a lot of things people will be able to relate to; but there are some tracks where people will think I'm talking about one thing, but it's all just wrapped in metaphors to disguise something else. Not the oldest trick in the book, but effective nonetheless!
What else can we expect to see from Glass Peaks in 2019? We're going to be releasing a steady stream of new music this year, which is important for us. We never put out a lot of music in 2018 so 2019 is all about showcasing what we've been working so hard on. We're also playing a ton of shows and festivals throughout the UK. Keep an eye on our socials, Spotify and website to catch the tour dates first.
Interview with Phil
How did Burnt Tapes originally get together? We’ve all been friends since we were kids, growing up together in Athens, Greece. We had jammed together for the first time one summer in 2006 as fresh faced teenagers. Fast forward to 2014 and we’re all “adults” living together in London - we started jamming again, ended up recording a demo and the guy who helped us record said he was putting on a show in London - he got us on it, and the rest as they say is history.
So, how did you get to the band name Burnt Tapes, and what does it mean to you? It’s actually a pretty uninspiring story. We all just threw a bunch of random names we liked into the ring, and then we would keep voting one out until one (Burnt Tapes) remained.
What bands have inspired you the most over the years, and why? The Menzingers and The Wonder Years have definitely been big inspirations for us, we’ve seen them go from playing tiny venues that we ourselves have played, to playing massive sold out shows in front of thousands. Musically they are constantly evolving, not afraid to push the boundaries of what they are creating, while still maintaining all the elements that people fell in love with in the first place.
What is it like to be an upcoming band in London? London is a tough town. Expectations are high, competition for attention is through the roof. I sometimes feel like being based in London is actually a hindrance, on the other hand so many great bands play in London, and we’ve been lucky enough to support them from time to time, something you might not get in a smaller town.
When did the initial vision for 'Never Better' come together? Was there a particular song or moment that maybe sparked the cycle for that record? We had put out a few EPs, and some of the criticism we were getting was that maybe it was time for us to put out a full-length. Like all great procrastinators, we needed a deadline, something to work towards. So we booked the studio, and started spending countless hours stuck in a room trying to write what would eventually become ‘Never Better’. It wasn’t until months later in the studio that we started to see the bigger picture of what ‘Never Better’ had become.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Never Better', and what does it mean to you? I liked the title because I felt it was ambiguous enough to allow listeners to interpret it in their own way. Is it “I’ve never been better”, or “Things are never getting better”. While we touch upon some darker themes on the record, I’d like to think that we want to leave a positive message that despite how hard things might seem at times, you can get through them and write a record about it all.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Never Better'? I think we touch upon “Growing up” and everything that comes with that. Failed relationships, regrets, unfulfilled dreams, the responsibilities of becoming an “adult”, and the effects it can all have on your mental health.
How did your latest track ‘Don’t Make Me Play Bocelli’ come together, and what did you find the most rewarding about working on this song in particular? I wanted to use it as an opportunity to write a really honest song, so it meant a lot to be able to put some of those feelings and thoughts down on paper and get them in the song. In that sense it was very cathartic. The chorus actually came about almost accidentally after messing around with an electronic drum machine for long enough one long day with Pan (the other half of guitars and vocals).
How did you end up working with Daly George, and how would you say that they helped shape the album? We’ve always loved everything The Ranch have put out, and it was a no brainer to try and record ‘Never Better’ there. We got in touch, and Daly got back to us saying he’d love to work on this with us. He helped shape the album massively, he knew exactly what we wanted to accomplish even if at times we didn’t technically know how to do that. He was there to jump in and give us that platform and the tools we needed. Also, he was not afraid to tell us if something was bad.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'Never Better' to put together, and why? I’d say ‘Forty, Forty-Five’. It’s the type of song we had never really attempted so we were a little unsure, maybe not as confident going into it. Also, if i’m not mistaken it has a different time signature than we are used to and we apparently cannot cope with such level of musicianship.
How did the artwork for 'Never Better' come together, and what does it mean to you? All the artwork and the photographs used for the record were taken in Greece by good friends of ours. We had this vision of a neon sign on a beach
What else can we expect to see from Burnt Tapes in 2019? We are celebrating the release on ‘Never Better’ on April 5th in London with all our friends and family, before embarking on a summer of festivals and hopefully a tour or two.
When did the first glimpses of 'Nest' come about? Was there a particular song or moment that sparked the whole album cycle? Stefanie: I think the first small ideas or riffs for ‘Nest’ were already created during the recording of ‘Burst’ and when we actually toured with ‘Burst’. Back then, we didn’t have real writing sessions but when you make a first album, everyone’s got ideas about what the next record should or shouldn’t sound like. It was when we started to tour more that we had more to talk about and get off our chest emotionally and lyrically. The song ‘War’ was a real turning point in the writing progress. Personally we were not in the best place when we wrote this song. It felt like because of the choices we had made in order to get this band going, everything else was crumbling down. When you feel devastated, you’re vulnerable. But angry as well. This feeling inspired us to write ‘War’. We wrote this song knowing that this would be a special one for us. A tipping point. We thought this should be the standard for the rest of the album.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Nest', and what does it mean to you? Peter: Everybody has a “nest”. It’s not a place or a house, but it is the people that are close to you. Loved ones, friends, family, collegues even. When the album and the songs were shaping up, a lot of emotions in the songs seemed to be about the relationships with those people close to us. ‘Nest’ was written in between tours and shows and being away from home a lot. Which of course wasn’t always easy, not for us but definitely not for those we love. Going full force for Brutus meant making a lot of tough decisions at home. In fact, the album is a reflection on everything that came with making choices about ourselves, which in turn unconsciously put the people we love through some difficult times. They never chose to be in this band but still have to deal with what comes with it. This is why “nest” came up as a natural name for the album.
What made you want to work with Jesse Gander again, and how would you say that he helped shape 'Nest'? Peter: We had an awesome time with Jesse in Vancouver when we recorded ‘Burst’, our first album. That album brought us a lot of good times, so it felt natural to also end that cycle in Vancouver with Jesse to record ‘Nest’. He gave us a warm welcome and we came into a natural environment we already knew. That gave us some comfort and limited risks. I think we needed that safe haven after a heavy year of touring.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'Nest' to put together, and why? Stefanie: The hardest song I think was ‘Fire’. We had tried so many things, so many vocal-lines. Nothing worked. And then we switched back to what this song had been initially, in the very first version, and suddenly it clicked. Vocally I tried to jump to wide notes more instead of just singing a vocal line that is “narrow”. We Peter, Stefanie, Stijn wanted it to sound very stereo. This is a song with very spontaneous parts, but we did in fact put a hell of a lot of thought into this one.
How did the artwork for 'Nest' come together, and what does it mean to you? Peter: We worked with a designer, Esther Noben from Toykyo.be. She does lovely stuff in mostly black and white, linework and strong forms. We briefed her on the idea/story behind the album, from which she came up with some initial idea, which through a number of conversations we developed together. To us, the lines on the cover are a symbol for the relationhips between the people in your nest. And the shape of these lines represent the stress or tension in those relationships.
So, looking back on 'Burst', how happy are you with that album still, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of Brutus? Stijn: I think ‘Burst’ is a real representation of the band at the moment we recorded it. It’s a collection of songs we wrote during the first couple of years that we were a band. You can tell we were looking for a sound. We really wanted to make the best record we could make at the time and I’m still really happy with it. We just wanted to get out there and play the songs live as much as possible.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Burst' at the moment, and why? Stijn: I still really like playing ‘All Along’ and ‘Justice De Julia II’. The writing of these songs were key moments for me in the ‘Burst’ - years because when we finished them, I immediately felt like we were growing as a band.
Is there anything you learnt from the creative process of 'Burst' that you went on to apply when approaching 'Nest'? Peter: It may sound as a cliché, but I think we had more conversations about what we really wanted and what we really felt like doing with ‘Nest’, more than we did with ‘Burst’. We talked more about the idea and why we were having whatever kind of vibe. With ‘Burst’, we just tried to make three opinions work and we were glad that it all worked out without splitting up (haha!). To make it work, all three of us individually just baked a piece of the cake and made sure in the end it looked like a real cake. Which was cool, at that time. For ‘Nest’, we tried to enforce all of our ideas more. It was more of a group process. Mostly Stijn comes up with a guitar riff and Stefanie and I then immediately start working with it.
How did you originally end up signing to Hassle Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? Peter: Mease from Hassle Records was one of the first people to hear our demo and he immediately believed in what the three of us wanted to do. Which was a great feeling, because in the beginning we were really unsure about everything. The music we were making was new to us, Stefanie was also really insecure about her singing, so it was great to have this kind of support from Hassle Records. In fact I remember feeling really overwhelmed about the idea. We were just three kids from Leuven who had never done anything special in life, and all of a sudden we were signed to a London based label like Hassle Records. That was unreal. And they have been supporting us ever since.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK/European tour, and what can attending fans expect? Stijn: I’m really excited to play these songs live! We were already playing most of the songs on ‘Burst’ live before it got released but with ‘Nest’ up til now we have only played two songs to see how they felt in a live set. It will be interesting to see the reaction to the new material. Touring is the best thing ever so we’re going to give it all we’ve got every night.
What do you remember the most from touring in the UK for the first time? Stijn: When we toured the UK the first time I remember being really grateful. When we left for tour we weren’t expecting anything so it was nice to see the audiences reactions to the songs. We met a lot of nice people so I’m eager to go back.
What else can we expect to see from Brutus in 2019? Stijn: Let’s start one day at a time and just make sure we get these ‘Nest’ shows right. Haha. No, but seriously, of course we’re going to play the upcoming UK shows, alongside some further European shows, including shows back at home in Belgium and we’ll play some really cool festivals like Pukkelpop and Lokerse Feesten. We’re also planning to tour more, but we can’t say too much about this yet. You’ll have to wait and see!
So how long has the idea for a solo project been in your mind, and what was it actually like to have time and really take on that side of your musical career? I don’t know that I ever planned on attempting a solo project, but at one point I did try to see if I could write all the parts to song ideas that didn’t seem to work for any of the other projects I was doing, instead of just guitars and lyrics and melody. So I guess it was a dare to myself after MCS’ last tour to see if I could pull it off.
We've read that you "felt compelled to revisit the hundreds of voice memos, lyrical scribblings". So what was the process like of actually going over these from over the years, and seeing what songs you wanted to turn into tracks for 'In The Drink'? I just worked on a bunch of ideas, eventually fine tuning them down to the ten or so on the record. I now have more of those initial ideas (that didn’t make the record) in a better place if I end up making more music one day.
How did you end up working with David Jarnstrom, and what was he like to work with? I have known him for quite a long time. Our bands have played alongside each other over the years. I first worked with him on my The Rapture Twins project. He was great at being able to riff on a reference well. He was good at either playing my literal drum parts and extrapolating on what I was trying to do and making it better. A good example of the later is the song ‘Sooner.’ He went above and beyond on that tune.
How did you get to the album title 'In The Drink', and what does it mean to you? I had been calling the album ‘Professional Human’ up until we started mixing it. My wife told me a story about John Steinbeck almost titling one of his books ‘Things That Happened’ or something like that. I thought that would’ve been an excellent title for a book. So literal and completely devoid of description. We got into a fight about it. When I told her a few of the titles I’d been thinking about, she faked choking to death when she heard ‘Professional Human’ and said I’d be an idiot to call it that, that Steinbeck and I could go jump off a cliff (I may be exaggerating). Eventually I stumbled upon ‘In The Drink’. I like albums with title tracks. I was only able to do that once prior. There’s a lot of different ways to interpret that.
Can you elaborate on the other main themes/influences that are in 'In The Drink'? I could, but I won’t. What I will say is that only two songs were specifically written about a current topic I’d been dealing with. Years later I’m discovering that subconsciously they are all more or less about that same topic. In terms of musical influences I will site Pavement, Superchunk, Guided By Voices, Swervedriver, Jawbox, Weezer, My Bloody Valentine, and everything else I devoured in high school.
What do you think you've learnt the most as a musician from putting together your debut album as a solo musician? I’ve learned that I cannot write drum parts. I was pretty sure I knew this going into it and was proved correct coming out of the experience. I don’t know sh*t about drumming. I did however get a boost of self confidence, accepting that I can write what I consider to be full songs, regardless of what others might think, and that trusting my gut paid off artistically 100%.
We must ask about your upcoming EP 'Open Mic At The Lo-Fi'! How did that come together, and what can fans expect from it? That was an attempt to try to sound as close to those ‘90s Guided By Voices recording’s. We didn’t come close to it, but created something different in the process. My friend and fellow Farewell Continental-er Thomas Rehbein is an incredible maker of noise, and his self recorded albums (’International Karate’, ‘Robosapien’) sound fantastic. I wanted him to helm some tunes for me, so we did. There is a fast tune, a medium paced tune, and a slow tune, followed by a cover song. That’s all I’ll say for now. I hope to make it a yearly thing.
How excited are you for your upcoming performances at Slam Dunk Festival? I’m extremely excited and terrified. I have a concept in mind for the performance. I’m currently working out how I’m going to pull it off. Taking full band songs (be it my own or MCS or whatever) and translating them into versions that can be performed with only two guitars and one singer, surrounded by feedback loops is the position I now find myself in. I’m citing Low, Spiritualized, and Julien Baker as points of reference. I won’t sound nearly as good as any of those outfits, but I’m going to try to make it some sort of religious experience, without the religion.
What do you remember the most from touring in the UK for the first time? Not much. I was drunk most of the time. I believe we opened for Sugarcult. It’s a blur. I remember our time with The All-American Rejects and Limbeck a little more. I would never buy a sandwich at a gas station at home, but I lived off of those in the UK and they were delicious. I remember Matt almost dying of sickness and having to sit on a stool and play his bass parts at our record release show for ‘I Am The Movie’ at The Betsey Trotwood. I think a bunch of us picked up a car and moved it onto the sidewalk so we could get our vehicle out where it had blocked us in. No year or location comes to mind. Like I said. It was a blur.
What else can we expect to see from Justin Courtney Pierre in 2019? Not much if I can help it. Working on a few different projects. May put out some singles if I can get them to come together. Writing ‘solo’ albums #2 & #3 & #5. The final videos for ‘In The Drink’ should be coming out as well. Maybe more exciting news than that for 2020? One can only hope.
Interview with George
How did Matt James become a part of 'Conspiracy' and what has he brought to the band overall? Matt joined the band back in Jan/Feb 2018. We knew him from his previous band and when he got in touch with Jai our drummer about the position, we already knew that 1. He’s a great singer and 2. We get on with him so it was a good start. When he came on board we got to work right away and released ‘Surrogate' so the fans could see our new singer. We then got stuck into ‘Conspiracy’. He’s totally changed the sound of the band due to the different style of voice and his range, which meant there were more options for vocal melodies. This meant that some songs I’d already had melodies for were altered to suit him and made better in my opinion.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Conspiracy', and what does it mean to you? 'Conspiracy' is the term for a collective of ravens. This is the main reasoning behind it. We also quite like the fact that a lot of people don’t know that and are intrigued by what it could mean, it ties in well with the artwork.
There are songs about Joan Of Arc and the Second World War right? So can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Conspiracy'? 'Bloom of the Poison Seed' and ‘Betrayal of the Mind' are the first two tracks on the album. The theme behind them is mental health. This is a topic that our ex guitarist/current manager and songwriter Dan wanted to address for a long time as he lost his father to suicide at the age of four. We decided to donate the income from the first month to a mental health charity and generally tried raising awareness as much as possible. There’re some more personal tracks on the album ie ‘Surrogate' and ‘Stigmata' which meander their way around certain things that I’m going through or have been through. And then there’re songs like ‘Scimitar' which also have a historic reference. I generally like to write from different points of view so I’m not writing about myself all the time, I put myself in the shoes of other people.
How did the artwork for 'Conspiracy' come together, and what does it mean to you? We’ve been discussing the whole story behind The Raven Age since day one. It’s linked to the ravens of the Tower of London. However in our version, the ravens are being held captive at the tower because if they ever leave or fly away, the British empire will fall. Our character in the artwork is on his way to claim them back to where they belong.
Who produced 'Conspiracy', and how would you say they helped shape it? Matt Hyde produced the album and I’m down in the credits as a co-producer. That’s mainly because Matt engineered the drums and then I engineered everything else so made most of the decisions on what takes were keepers and generally how the tracking side of it went. But Matt’s style is plastered all over the album as he mixed and mastered it. I have a great working relationship with Matt where I like all of the advice and ideas he gives and he lets us get what we want from it as well without being too overprotective of his mixes.
Looking back on 'The Darkness Will Rise', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of The Raven Age? I’m still happy with it. It definitely feels old to me now, but I think that’s mainly down to the singer change so there’s an obvious difference. I wouldn’t change a thing to it though, that’s where we were at that point in time and how our minds wanted to write music back then. Some of those songs have some of my first ever riffs and musical pieces involved so I think there’s an obvious progression in the second album. I still enjoy playing songs from 'Darkness Will Rise' I’d never just scrap them and only play new stuff.
Was there anything you learnt on 'The Darkness Will Rise' that you maybe went on to apply to the creative process of 'Conspiracy'? I think we’ve learned that all of our songs don’t need to be over 5/6 minutes to be good. I was always wanting to give every part of the songs a whole load of space to build or do its own thing. And I still loved doing that in a lot of songs on ‘Conspiracy', but I’ve realised that not all types of songs actually need it. Sometimes you want to just smash straight in and get to a chorus rather than build build build then chorus.
What can you tell us about your latest track ‘The Day The World Stood Still’? This is actually one of the songs that Tony our guitarist brought to the table. It’s a great song and it’s become one of our favourites to play in the studio. It’s quite different to what we’ve done before but again I think that’s good and we thought so much so that we’d release it as a single right before our tour! I have a quote from Tony about the meaning... Tony Maue...”’The Day The World Stood Still’ was written whilst on tour, it's about being in a constant battle with your own mind, delving into dark places you didn't know you had. Simple things like sleep become a challenge when your mind's working on overdrive and it seems there's no light at the end of the tunnel. The fact that I was able to turn this into something positive and create music out of it was the escape I needed at the time to get me through it.”
What else can we expect to see from The Raven Age in 2019? We have our headline tour coming up which we’re very excited about. Playing these new songs live is something all of us can’t wait for. Also, we’re extremely lucky in that we’re going to be playing across the US, Canada and South America in support of Iron Maiden this summer. So we’re going to have our hands pretty full touring wise but in-between we’re going to be working hard on making sure everyone hears ‘Conspiracy' and also cracking on with writing the next one.
Interview with Anna, Ivo & Merlin
So, how did you get to the album title 'The Spell', and what does it mean to you? Anna: We decided to name the album ‘The Spell’ because the story revolves around it. It's basically the key element of the concept. It is also the only track on the album that has two words as a title - the song stands out.
Can you elaborate on how the concept for this album originally came together, and how it runs through the tracks? Anna: The concept is based on a very old idea - the motif of "Death and the maiden" which was born in the times of Renaissance art and has been a part of classical music, poetry and paintings. I wanted to take this motif and create my own story out of it. A nameless girl falls in love with death, but is unable to reconcile with him in the netherworld because he, out of spite, has cast a spell of eternal life upon her. We wrote the music according to this lyrical guideline. The tracklist was there before we wrote the music.
There's an audiobook on the album, which features Anna telling the story behind the concept. How did this idea come together, and what do you think it does for the listener upon their first listen to the record? Anna: I think it gives more importance to the concept. We want to keep the listener immersed in the story, not distract by having cover songs or instrumental versions on there as a bonus. And it is an opportunity for the listener to have more insight into the story if he or she wishes to. The reason I recorded it (which was a dreadful experience - speaking is hard...) was because we thought the fans would appreciate it being my voice and not that of a "stranger".
Merlin: We thought that telling the story in prose would add another dimension to the concept work, in addition to the musical, the lyrical, and the visual. So Anna wrote it all down, we edited it and worked it out in collaboration. As for what it might do for the listener: I have no idea, and that’s as it should be I think. We love creating an album and bringing our vision to life, but it is also important to us to let the fans interpret it in their own way — much in the same way we ourselves like to listen to music. I’m extremely happy with how this whole multidimensional project has come together; now it’s for the fans to make it their own.
How did your new track 'Death' (which features an epic flute solo) come together, and how would you say it compares to anything else on the record? Anna: The first riffs were written by Ivo and we worked on creating a song out of them in New York where we rented a rehearsal space for a day in-between touring. It was a challenge to get the song to sound like "Death" - I always perceived it as too sweet and that is how the doom part in the middle came about. It is also the reason why I sing very low, we just needed to create an atmosphere that does justice to the song title.
Merlin: I think it fits right into the record, rather than compare to it, in that it’s very much an example of our approach this time. We started with the title and Anna’s idea for this particular chapter of the story; we tried to make it sound like what’s happening in the lyrics, we worked on it together in the rehearsal space and later in the studio, and also took a lot of input from our producer Tommy Vetterli. So it developed with all of us in the room in a very organic and, I suppose, kind of old-school way. The long, doomy middle section with the epic flute solo felt very right for what the track was meant to communicate, so we just let it flow and grow until it was done. Which I think really benefitted both this track and the whole record: ‘Death’ has one of the catchier choruses, we knew it was going to be a single pretty much right away, but we also knew that it needed the freedom to be over seven minutes long and to take a detour into epic flute solo lands.
Ivo: As Anna mentioned, when we started working on ‘Death’, I came up with some riff ideas, and at first I wanted to make it as dark and heavy as possible. However, the idea of combining it with a catchy chorus came spontaneously, which also made it a bit more challenging.
For the music video you once again worked with Costin Chioreanu. Can you tell us about how you first met Costin, and what he brings to the visual representation of Cellar Darling? Merlin: We’ve all loved Costin’s work for years; I was introduced to him by Anna and he’s worked for solo and side projects of both her and Ivo. We decided that for this record, we wanted to task a visual artist with creating their own vision of the story, with minimal direction and maximum artistic freedom. Costin’s style was exactly what we had in mind, so that was an easy decision to make. As the idea for the concept album developed, we thought it would be really cool to make an animated video, removing ourselves from the picture and giving more room to the story; and from that we started wondering whether Costin might be able to create not just thirteen pieces of artwork, one for each track, but also thirteen videos so that we could offer this whole visual aspect of the whole concept to the fans. And now here we are and you can look forward to quite a few more videos...
Anna: I've always been a huge fan of his, for about nine years now... I even have some of his artwork tattooed on my arm. The visuals are all the more important for this album because we deliberately didn't want to have the band featured in any of the artwork or videos. We want to take the listener into a different realm, immersed in only sound and images. Having us in there would distract and tear you back into this reality. Costin doesn't need guidelines. I send him the songs and the lyrics, and he delivers. It's as if he's in my head and sees the same things I do.
Who produced 'The Spell', and how did they help shape the album? Merlin: Just like on the previous record, Anna co-produced together with Tommy Vetterli. This time, we actually worked much closer with Tommy and took more producing input, which I think really benefitted the album. We’ve all known him for years so he’s a friend, which was important to us, and he’s also a ridiculously talented musician in his own right.
Anna: Fredy Schnyder was also really important for this album - his distinct piano playing in ‘Insomnia’ really gave the track exactly what it needed in order to function and tell the story. I feel really comfortable having both Tommy and Fredy around... we don't always agree, but I think all of us together can come up with great ideas.
What was the hardest song on 'The Spell' to put together, and why? Merlin: I would say that was ‘Drown’. It was just a beast of a song to finish; I think it was one of the earliest demos we had but also one of the last songs we finished, and it went through multiple iterations over the course of many months. It led to some frustration and some heated discussions, too, but I think the result is absolutely worth it. As to why, I think it was simply a case of Anna having a clear vision (the idea for the song was hers) but one that required a really complex execution. There are odd time signatures, different moods, it’s a pretty long journey from the intro to the finale. In that regard it’s very much an “album song”, which makes it all the more interesting and it’s going to be released as our next single. The reason for this is that we thought it would be cool to let the fans pick the final single just based on the tracklist, to find out what would happen if the choice was for once taken out of the hands of artist and record label...
Anna: It got to the point where the band didn't want to have the song on the album anymore. I fought for it with ravenous intensity, refusing to release the album without ‘Drown’. Sometimes you have to go through extreme measures in order to make things function and I think it's good that this happened. It was the first song that even needed an external songwriter (Dennis Russ, a good friend of Tommy), we spent about ten hours adding elements that the song was missing and then it finally fell into place after about a year of work with about 20 different versions.
Looking back on 'This Is the Sound', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Cellar Darling? Merlin: I’m perfectly happy with ‘This Is The Sound’ the album is exactly what it needed to be at the time. We are very much still looking for our identity as a band, and I think you can hear that, but that was necessary at the time. I also think that its strongest quality is that it is hard to categorise, and I think we’re carrying that on with ‘The Spell’. Cellar Darling is a band that is based on free exploration of our musical abilities, and as such each album should, and likely always will, have its own identity.
Ivo: For the most part I am happy with it, too. There’s always things you would do differently afterwards, I would even cut out some songs. I guess this is something a lot of musicians think when they look at their past work, but with ‘This Is The Sound’ there are absolutely no regrets, and I’m very proud of it
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'This Is the Sound'? Merlin: Personally, I still enjoy playing all of them really. One of the things I personally love most about being a musician is playing live, partly because the songs develop over time. It usually takes me about a year from an album’s release to figure out how exactly I want to play a song, but that’s just part of the process and perfectly fine. It keeps things interesting, for me as a drummer and a performer.
Anna: I don't enjoy playing all of them to be honest, I'm an artist that gets bored very quickly. When something becomes routine I have a hard time putting the necessary emotion into it. That's why I like to "Shake things up" from time to time. Create different sets, play the songs differently. I'm going to learn to play the keyboard parts now, so that should create a lot of hard work to keep me from getting bored for a while...
Ivo: I am probably somewhere in-between, I like to play some of them and some of them not anymore. For example, I still like ‘Black Moon’, because it combines all the things I like in one song. Good rhythm and drive, catchy vocals and an intruiguing atmosphere. I also start to crave for new material very quickly, so I am very happy we can play new songs!
What else can we expect to see from Cellar Darling in 2019? Merlin: We’re starting our tour with a series of shows in the UK and Ireland, which is exactly what we wanted, our 2018 tour was simply magical, the crowds were amazing and we couldn’t believe the warm welcome. It was the same at Download, actually. So that’s really cool, and after that we just confirmed some European dates with Katatonia which is an amazing band so we can’t wait for that. We’re also hoping to cover as much territory as possible in other parts of the world, so generally we’ll just be playing live as much as we can and wherever they’ll have us.
So, when did the first glimpses of 'The Valley' come together? Was there a particular song or moment maybe, that started the whole album cycle? The guys are always writing so for me a new record always starts once we are all in the same room working on something together for the first time.
The album title references Hardin Valley, where your singer grew up. So, if possible, can you tell us about some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'The Valley'? The whole record is "Based on true events." Phil writes literally and figuratively about his past. We all live in East Tennessee which in itself is a valley and Phil grew up in a small area known as Hardin Valley.
What made you want to release 'Brimstone' first, and can you tell us about how this song in particular came together? It almost didn't make the record, and then it ended up as the first single, ha! We had the main riff and knew we wanted to use it, but couldn't find a structure for the whole song until Zach and our producer Mark Lewis took a whole day getting something they were happy with to show us all. Phil killed the vocals and everyone we showed the track, loved it. It's heavy and our fans love heavy so we released it first.
How did the artwork for 'The Valley' come together, and what does it mean to you? Interview with Gabe
Lots of back and forth! Branca Studios does great work and really killed the artwork.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'The Valley' to put together, and why? Honestly? It was ‘Brimstone’. Although as easy as it sounds, it just took a lot to make it as great as it is.
Looking back on 'Mark of the Blade', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Whitechapel? It was definitely a great continuation of Whitechapel and a step towards where we are now. Learned a lot and I think you'll hear that in ‘The Valley’.
Is there anything that you learnt from creating this record as musicians, that you maybe went on to apply to 'The Valley'? We learnt that we could make softer, clean singing songs and still make them sound like Whitechapel in our heads.
What has it been like to do a ten year anniversary tour for 'This Is Exile', and what songs have you really enjoyed re-visiting from this album? It's been great to see people still care and to be able to perform these songs the way they were supposed to be. Better sound. Better production. It was cool to finally play ‘Messiahbolical’ in front of people!
Also, looking back on this album. What do you remember the most about putting it together? Being cold in the North East, ha! Times were way different then and I'm glad to see where we have evolved to.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK/European tour, and what can attending fans expect? Very! Love coming over for the big summer fests. It'll be the best Whitechapel you've ever seen in my opinion. Stronger now than ever!
What do you remember the most from touring the UK/Europe for the first time? In six words - cheap hotels and sh*tty sprinter vans.
What else can we expect to see from Whitechapel in 2019? Touring. We'll be going around the states and Europe a couple times it looks like! We're back in the UK first for Download and a couple headline shows around that in Cardiff and London.
Interview with Fredrik
So, how did you get to the album title 'SOS' and what does it mean to you? As you know by now there’s also a song called ‘SOS’ on the album, the opening track. We thought it fits the over-all vibe of the album with the lyrics as well as the music. Erik also came up with a plan for the artwork that fitted the title well so it felt natural to name it ‘SOS’.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'SOS'? ‘SOS’ is a bit more political both on a personal level and with thoughts about what’s happening around the world right now - for example climate issues, the growing right wing parties around Europe and the rest of the world and how we treat each other.
You guys produced this album yourself. What do you enjoy the most about working this way, and how did this approach help shape 'SOS'? We’ve worked with some really cool producers through the years for sure but I guess we came to a point where we felt confident about the whole thing and wanted to do it ourselves. We’ve also had Jens checking in to our studio every now and then to follow the process but also Mathias got loads of experience in our studio. Mathias and Nikola have also worked together in the songwriting for many years and when the idea is clear on what we want to do we go for it and it’s not been necessary to involve another producer.
How did you end up working with Jens Bogren, and what did you enjoy the most about working with him? We actually worked with Jens before and had pretty much the same process on ‘True Brew’ as this time. You know - record the drums, guitars, bass etc in our studio and then move on to Jens where he mixed the album and Nikola did all the vocals. It’s very smooth to work with Jens, we know he’s super professional and really focused and of course he’s a great guy with lots of humour so it’s great to have him onboard. He also lives in Örebro where our studio is based.
How did the artwork for 'SOS' come together, and what was it like to work on? I guess Erik got the idea from reading all the lyrics and then put together artwork with details from that. I love album covers with details that you can just sit and watch for a long time and discover new stuff. It fits the theme like a hand in a glove. He was also able to use some parts of it making the ‘SOS’ video as well as the lyric videos which is great.
So, what do you want the listener to take away from 'SOS'? Hopefully the listener understands our thoughts and sees some of these serious issues but can get a feeling that we can change some of this if we just try. I think Nikola is so good at writing serious lyrics but with a twist that gives a positive feeling in the end. I hope people dig the tunes! We’re really happy with how it turned out.
What made you want to share the track 'SOS' first from the new album, and can you tell us a bit about how it came together? There was no doubt among us with what track to share and we even asked friends and Epitaph what their thoughts were and everyone said ‘SOS’. Mathias wrote ‘SOS’ (as well as the lyrics) and I loved the song already from the demo version. It’s fast, melodic with great serious lyrics. Also, I think it was one of the first songs that were written for this album.
Looking back on 'True Brew' what do you remember the most about putting it together, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Millencolin? We had pretty much the same process writing and recording those two albums so one thing we learned is that it’s a good way to do this for us. We can only write songs that we like ourselves, songs that we can stand behind you know. It feels like most of our listeners appreciated the direction of ‘True Brew’ which is nice. So when playing the songs live and the crowds seem to like it also, it’s a great payback. We’ve been a band with the same guys for quite a while now and as long as we feel we can progress in our writing and find new angles and ideas we’ll keep doing it.
How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? We are stoked to do those shows! It’s been a while since last time so it’s going to be great! We’ll play a bunch of songs from our new album as well as some old ones. Come party!!
What else can we expect to see from Millencolin in 2019? Touring around the world! First off is Australia in March. After that we are joining a European tour in late April/May and then we are doing a whole bunch of festivals during the summer. We then go back to regular (headline etc) tours in other parts of the world this fall. It’ll be great!
Interview with Greg
This year sees you celebrate your 30th anniversary as The Bouncing Souls. Congratulations! What has it been like to look back over your career as a band, at how far you've come and what you've achieved? Thanks! It is really exciting. I’m stoked for this year. We spent 2018 collecting stories from fans and friends for the book we are releasing this year. Getting all those stories in from people one by one throughout last year was a special treat for me. It’s really amazing to see the positive impact we have had on a lot of people’s lives in many ways and on many levels. That aspect of looking back has been a real treat but I think our biggest achievement is that we still like hanging out after all these years, just as band buds. It’s pretty powerful to me. So I’m really proud of myself and of us for sustaining good relationships through so many changes in our lives, and the world
So, how did you get to the EP title 'Crucial Moments', and what does it mean to you? Pete came up with the title and the foundation of the song that became ‘Crucial Moments’. He was inspired to write it after the passing of a good friend of ours. It went through a lot of versions and like many of our album titles it kind of snuck up on us. It was already there, we just have to see it. It’s the perfect title to acknowledge our thirty year relationship with each other and all the people who care about us. We have all shared some crucial moments. They have bonded us in a special way and we all wouldn’t be the same without them.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Crucial Moments’? In ‘1989’ we made an effort to write a song that sounded and felt like it was written in that year. It was really bad at first and we were very self conscious of it. It was a big surprise when it started to actually feel awesome. It went from being the worst song to everyone’s favourite in the studio.
What was it like to work with Will Yip, and how would you say he helped shape the EP? Will is great at what he does. He’s really sharp at all the things a producer should be good at and they have to be good at a LOT of things. Having Will as part of the process was good because he added his twist on what we have been doing for a while. His relaxed but energetic, positive, spontaneous approach helped bring to life that unexplainable thing that you try to capture when recording. We also had fun co-writing the song ‘Here’s to Us’ which we put together with Will from start to finish during the week we were tracking together.
How did the artwork for the EP come together, and what does it mean to you? It’s pretty special because it’s done by our good friend Mike Cavallaro aka Johnny X. He has been a friend since the very early days and has collaborated with Bryan on various Souls art over the years. So I think it all makes sense that he and Bryan collaborated again for the 30 year release. Bryan and he had an idea they fleshed out together and Johnny X came back with a super cool sketch that eventually became the cover.
You are also releasing a book of the same name, ‘Crucial Moments’. Can you tell us about what we can expect from that, and maybe what it was like to put together? I referenced this a bit already. We had been talking about doing a book for years so we decided the 30 year point was the time to just get it done. We figured all of our fans know our story already so we thought it would be interesting to collect short stories from people about how our music played a role, big or small, in their lives. That was the basic idea we started from. I have to give Josh Casuccio credit for taking the reins on the project. He did a great job. Collecting photos throughout the year was a fun treasure hunt. I’m really stoked on how it came out. I can’t wait to see an actual book!
Looking back on 'Simplicity', how happy are you with this record still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of The Bouncing Souls? It has some cool tunes. It was great to work with John Seymour again. He worked on ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ and ‘Anchors Aweigh’. So for the band we had a great time making it with him. I think we captured some of the feel of those earlier records along with what was going on at the current moment for all of us. One of my favourite deep cuts on that record is ‘Hey Aliens’ So..I’m really proud of it. It’s hard to say what it has done for the representation of the Souls? We just do what we do in the moment and, that’s what ends up being The Bouncing Souls.
Was there anything you learnt from this record, which you maybe took with you as musicians going forward? Something that you might apply to future records maybe? Having a relaxed attitude about the whole process can help you get a good result without excessive effort. Forcing things in creativity never works. This is something we have learned and keep practicing in our life as the Souls. Will was right on that page with us which was why we got along so well. I think we are all trying to apply that same thing in our lives in our own ways in every moment. It’s a lifelong practice.
It's been twenty years since the release of 'Hopeless Romantic'. Looking back, what do you remember the most about putting this record together? Here’s a random thought train that comes to my head when I think about ‘Hopeless Romantic’ Thom Wilson, recording in Sausalito, CA where parts of Fleetwood Macs ‘Rumors’ were recorded. Struggling to write the verses of ‘Ole’ in the studio. Writing most of the songs in our downstairs practice space in Brooklyn. I think that’s all I got. Not all that exciting I guess.
What else can we expect to see from The Bouncing Souls in 2019? We are going to some places on tour we haven’t been to in a while so I’m stoked for that. We are also doing a storytellers acoustic set which will be different for us. In general though we are going to keep doing what we have always done: Travel and share our music and good vibes everywhere we go. The world needs it more than ever.
Interview with Joey
What was it like to be an upcoming band in California? I think we were very fortunate because California is a beautiful place with a moderate climate and the music scene and concerts were vast and well attended. Not a bad thing to return home to from the road overseas.
Was there a particular moment when you realised that you had the potential to make a career out of music? Yes, It was in 1994. We were touring in support of the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Trashedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; album and it occurred to me that we were working over 250 days a year. Not a bad job.
How did you originally end up signing to Fat Wreck Chords, and what is it you love so much about working with this label? I gave a demo tape to Fat Mike at a punk show in San Francisco in 1991. I knew he had started his own label from an add placed in the fanzine Maximum Rock nâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Roll. I was painting houses at the time. He seemed to like the cassette and tracked me down the following day. We were recording later that year. We had the budget for a whopping three days in the studio. Haha. Our relationship with Fat has always been transparent. They have never tried to control us creatively and we have always felt the love from them. There is no reason to change that.
So, looking back on 'Hang' how happy have you been with the response to it so far, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Lagwagon? People and critics alike seemed to enjoy the album. That was nice but, over time people I meet at shows have really embraced the record and that is, of course, far more rewarding. I knew when we finished it that it was one of my favourite albums Lagwagon made. It seems to have shown at least some people that we are still serious about our music.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Hang' at the moment, and why? Any of them. It’s always most pleasant to perform newer material but, the synergy on those songs is special somehow.
Is there anything you learnt from creating 'Hang' that you'll maybe apply to future material? I learned collaboration is key to our success musically speaking for Lagwagon. We are all fairly seasoned at this point in our career and everyone’s input is valuable. ‘Hang’ was certainly our most collaborative album to date.
Also, leading nicely on from that, has work started on any new material just yet, if so, what can fans expect from it? We have just completed the demo process for a new album, as of yet untitled. It’s not as dark as ‘Hang’. I think it sounds more like an early Lagwagon album. It has more fast pop songs. We begin recording in March. We should have a release later this year.
How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? Very excited! I’m sure it will be a fun day. I have no idea what kind of set we will play but, I imagine it will be a mix from all of our albums.
What do you remember the most from touring in the UK for the first time? I remember being very intimidated. I had listened to so many incredible bands from the UK growing up and I just wanted to be well received. I distinctly recall a review for a show in Camden from Kerrang! Magazine that viewed us as nothing to take all that seriously, sighting that we were at least fun or funny. That was slightly disappointing but still a thrill to be considered.
What else can we expect to see from Lagwagon in 2019? A new album and extensive touring in support of it through 2020.
How did your recent War of The Worlds tour go, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? I had an amazing time on War of The Worlds, such a great bunch of people and the show is completely mad. Playing in those huge arenas was pretty mind blowing and being underneath a giant fire-blasting robot every night was as much fun as it sounds.
Was there anything that you really learned from that tour that you'll take forward with you as a musician? I watched the band like a hawk, trying to get my head around exactly what everyone was doing. There are so many amazing players, with new tricks for me to learn.
So, how did the idea for ‘The Very Best of Newton Faulkner ... So Far’ first come together? Initially my old label came to me wanting to do it. We were just about to release my 6th album, ‘Hit the Ground Running’, so I asked for a bit of time to think about it and get that released. Once I did think about it, though, it actually felt like quite a good way to bookend the last 10+ years and start afresh for album eight.
How did you go about deciding which songs would make it onto this important collection? Well, I really didn’t want to just pick the things that had streamed the best or that were singles on each album. For me, it was about summing up my work and making sure all genres and styles I've tapped into were represented so, hopefully, it’s a bit of a musical journey where you get a bit of everything. From pure troubadour folk, to tracks produced by some of the guys from Empire of the Sun.
What has it been like for you to look back over your career at this point, and to see how far you've come and what you've achieved? Strange. In a nice way but definitely strange. Looking back is cool but looking forward is way more exciting for me at this stage.
Can you tell us about ‘Don't Leave Me Waiting?’ How did that come together, and what did you enjoy the most about working on it? I wrote this with my friend Reese Szabo in Sydney whilst on the last tour. Well, most of it, we finished it in London with my brother, Toby. The production on this track I think is the longest I've spent working on anything. It was a slow process but a thoroughly enjoyable one. It’s actually about something Reese was going through; it’s about the trails of an international embryonic relationship.
There are two more new songs on the album as well, right? Could you tell us a bit about how they also came together? ‘Wish I Could Wake Up’ is an unashamed love song, which I don't do very often, so make the most of it. We released a music video for it just before Christmas with kids and animals and a lot of fairy lights; have a look on YouTube, it’s very cute. The third single ‘Take What You Want’ is the opposite; it’s about having enough and giving up essentially. Luckily, I wrote this one before ‘Wish I Could Wake Up’ so there was a happy ending.
Disc two is full of covers! How did that idea come about, and what do you enjoy the most about putting your own spin on classic tracks? I've always been up for covers, probably from being into solo acoustic players where your arrangements are just as important as anything else. A lot of the guitar and vocal parts existed already from the shows but what made it really interesting was the production. Doing something recognisable but different on guitar is one thing, but recording a full sounding recorded version is a whole different challenge all together.
Looking back on ‘Hit the Ground Running’, how happy are you with this album still? And what do you think it's done for the representation of Newton Faulkner? I'm super happy with ‘Hit the Ground Running’; from a songwriting point of view I think it’s some of my favourite work. It also went down the best with the hardcore fan base which means a huge amount to me, obviously. As for representation, I have no idea, that's up to you guys to decide individually.
This year marks ten years since the release of ‘Rebuilt by Humans’; looking back on that album, what do you remember the most about putting it together? Mainly, how much fun it was! Mike Spencer and I had a great time. It was pretty much just the two of us working on it, in a small room for three months. I learnt so much from him, he’s an incredibly clever guy.
How excited are you for your forthcoming UK tour, and what can fans expect from the shows? Hell, yeah, I'm excited! It's going to be a dual set up show. One is a mind-bending futurist multitasking type kettle of fish, the other is unplugged old school troubadouring folk vibes and the venues are awesome! What's not to be excited about?
Finally, what else can we expect to see from Newton Faulkner in 2019? This year's mainly a writing year, after these tours. I'm around half way through writing album eight at the moment, but I want to take advantage of the breathing space the ‘Best Of’ has given me and really put the time into both the songs and the production. I've got a top-secret project on the way as well so I'm definitely keeping myself out of trouble.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Kick' and what does it mean to you? It comes from the ‘Saboteurs’ lyric “through the poison glow of the undertow, we kick against the tide” These modern times seem so uncertain, and so dark, so sometimes when the tide feels like it’s pulling you towards a black hole, all you really know how to do is kick your feet and not get swept away.
There's certainly a political theme on there, in regards to your perspective changing after the 2016 elections. So can you tell us a bit about how that moment has gone on to shape 'Kick’? 2016 was a wake up call. Being from Philadelphia and living in California, I was definitely in a bubble. I felt like everyone I knew were just skipping along singing “all you need is love” and suddenly we found out there were wolves around us, threatening to tear us all apart. I’m still not sure how to fight back, but I think it starts with getting in touch with what makes us human, and defending that at all costs.
Scott Hutchison was also an influence on this record as well right? So can you elaborate on this, and how his passing effected you as a musician? Scott was a friend, but also a huge influence on my songwriting. He sang a song on my second record and we stayed in touch over the years, always getting each others’ friends and families into each others’ shows. Hearing the news of his passing was devastating. I have struggled with a lot of the same demons that Scott did, and I certainly understand what brought him to that end. ‘Bearing Down’ is a song about that very thing, and trying to find a place or a reason to stay alive.
There are certainly some intense themes/lyrics on this record. However, you do want it to inspire hope in the listener as well right? I do. I don’t want to make bleak or hopeless records. That’s why ‘Eye Aye I’ is first. It’s bleak and dark, but it sets the table for some catharsis or hope later. I think in these crazy and seemingly hopeless times, we can’t despair. I have nieces and nephews and sons and a wife and sisters and a brother and a band, I don’t want to let them down.
What has it been like to work alongside Tim Hause, and what has he brought to 'Kick’? He’s my little brother, so that is a sacred and really special bond. There’s tons of years between us so we don’t have that typical brotherly competition, we have always been rooting for one another. I always envied Pete and Bryan from the Bouncing Souls, they are each other’s musical soul mate. But now I found mine, and it’s really one of the great blessings I’ve had in my life. He’s talented and thoughtful and fun to be around and despite having gone through immense struggles in his life, has a real calm about how he navigates.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'Kick' to put together, and why? The songs came together organically; Tim and I wrote them together and felt good about not only the songs that made the record, but the songs that didn’t. Not sure what we’ll do with those. There is a song called ‘Little Chainsaw’ I really like that didn’t make the record. The making of the record was really difficult, it was a fraught time in the studio, I was away from my eight months pregnant wife, and a lot of uncertainty was creeping in. But the actual writing was pretty natural. I guess ‘Paradise’ was the toughest. We had a little sample of ‘Help’ by the Beatles in there, and a longer pre chorus, and the chorus wasn’t as good until Tim came up with the skin and bones bit. Songs are puzzles where you often don’t know the final picture; some need more work than others.
Looking back on 'Bury Me in Philly' how happy are you with this record still, and what do you think you learnt the most from it as a musician/songwriter? I’m happy enough with it. I like that there are things about it that I don’t like, honestly. That’s how life is. It happens on every record, for the most part. Except ‘Devour’… and maybe The Loved Ones’ ‘Keep Your Heart’. Nah, there’s stuff about that record I don’t like too. I’m happy we made that record, happy people liked it, and happy it led us to making more music. They’re links in a chain.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Bury Me in Philly' at the moment, and why? Not sure, we haven’t played in months. Tim and I mostly toured as a duo last year, and at the end of our touring we did some songs from ‘September Haze’, an EP we put out in Nov. We did twelve Mermaid shows last year, and it was fun to do ‘With You’, ‘Flinch’, ‘Dirty F*cker’. But the acoustic duo version of ‘Shaky Jesus’ became the favourite for me from that record.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? SO stoked and nervous. I love the UK, and getting to open for our pal Brian Fallon and then The Gaslight Anthem in 2018 was a real treat. The crowds were so good to us, so I feel like the fire is lit. That said, we are playing the biggest London show to date, at Scala, so I’m hoping it feels good in there! .
What do you remember the most from touring in the UK for the first time? It was so long ago, my first tour of the UK was in early 2001. I was working for Sick Of It All and the Explosion were the opening band. Then I came through with The Bouncing Souls as a roadie, and then with The Loved Ones, where I first understood what it was like to have folks in the UK respond to songs I wrote. Nothing could prepare me for what the Revival Tour in the UK did for me as a songwriter in the UK. It was like a lightning bolt, that tour.
What else can we expect to see from Dave Hause in 2019? We are touring like crazy through the year with our band the Mermaid, and Tim and I are starting to write the next record. I want to put more records out more often, so in order to do that, we have to stay busy writing. I would like to tour less honestly and spend more time with my kids, but hey, they need clothes and food, so off to work we go.
Interview with Junate Angin aka Prince J
What was it like to be an upcoming band in London? It was an exciting time for us. We were thriving off the energy around us from all the new shows in different regions we've never been to before, to the fans giving us a unreal recepetion and welcoming that we were truly humbled by. Everything was moving so quick for us, and weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve never had a chance to step back to see what we were achieving so now it's good to reflect.
Was there a particular moment when you realised that you had the potential to be more than just an upcoming band? I don't think there's been any particular moment. All the big moments that we've had like touring America, selling out Brixton twice just to name a few have been eye opening and grateful achievements in our lives but we've always had the mentality that we were destined for great things, even before we were released and started playing shows. Having that belief and drive from day one is something that we believe is vital to creating something special.
amma So, looking back on 'Dare' how happy have you been with the response to the album so far, and what do you think that it's done for the representation of The Hunna? Couldn't be happier with the response, everyone's welcomed it into their lives with open arms. I believe that the album has shown a different side to us from the first. Taping in to more personal areas of our lives lyrically from Tino and also musically it shows that we're capable of many different flavours.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Dare' at the moment, and why? I'd say a personal favourite would be ‘Babe Can I Call’. Love the song in general. It's groove and tempo is a nice switch up from our usual high pace numbers when performing. Another would be ‘Mother’. This one holds a special place in our hearts and to be able to play this live and for the world to hear it after many years of keeping the song until the right time is truly a moment for us.
Is there anything that you really learnt from creating 'Dare' that you'll maybe take with you going forward as musicians? To take your time when creating music and to never rush anything. I believe getting in tune with yourself to find the right vibe is paramount in creating great music.
Tough question time. When you look back, what was the hardest song on 'Dare' to put together, and why? Again I’d say ‘Babe Can I Call’, such a joy to play it but getting it to the point that it's at now wasn't easy. The rhythm was key to achieving the right vibe. Jack felt like playing a different beat to what we originally had during the recording process and it was a split decision as to which one gave the right feel. After a back and forth for several days we decided the new beat was the one. This was one of the big songs for us on the album so it needed to be right. Thankfully we all came together and picked the right path for it and it's come out better than we ever expected.
What do you want the listener to take away from listening to 'Dare'? To stay true and stand up for yourself when you need to but also to live and appreciate the moments that you have as you never know when things can change.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? It's been a while since we played on tour so we're itching to get back on stage and rip it! They can expect a high energy performance as usual and a few surprises as well. We've been working hard on the 3rd album behind the scenes so there could be a lil taster of what’s to come.
Also, you are taking on the mighty Reading/Leeds Festival. How excited are you for that, and how do you go about preparing for performing in front of audiences of this size? It's seriously a dream come true for us. To finally be on the main stage is a huge honour. We've always just done our thing no matter what the size of the occasion. Prepping hard in rehearsals to be as tight as we can goes without saying for any show. Remember to always be in the moment and to thrive off the energy on the day then let it out on stage!
What else can we expect to see from The Hunna in 2019? New music and a recharged Hunna ready for a new stage in our careers. 1 love Hx
Can you tell us how Story Untold originally got together? We had a lot of line-up changes but let’s just say that we all got together through some friends or via the Internet. OK no the real answer is we got together because of Tinder.
At what moment did you realise that you had the potential to be more than just an upcoming band? We are still an upcoming band and I think we are still learning and we know that we have so much more to offer. I like to keep telling myself that we will always be an upcoming band because I always want our band to evolve and I don’t think I will ever be satisfied which is kind of sad but I like to push myself and I love to achieve new goals. I don’t know if the band agrees with me but I guess they won’t have a choice because I’m the one answering the questions.
So, when did the initial vision for 'Waves' come together? ‘Waves’ was our first album so I don’t think there was a particular moment when we said we should start writing an album. The album itself is basically a mix of songs that we wrote throughout the first years of the band. We are always writing songs but we just didn’t know when we were going to start recording the album so we would just keep on writing and writing until the moment came for us to go in the studio and start recording.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences? Interview with Janick
The album basically talks about me, my struggles in life and my past relationships. I don’t think it feels genuine to write songs that I cannot connect with which is why I like to get inspiration from the things that happen around me and also just the way I feel and how I see life. When we wrote most of the songs on the album I was just getting out of a relationship and I think most of the songs reflect that.
How did you end up working with Derek Hoffman & Paul Marc Rousseau, and how would you say that they helped shape the album? I first got in touch with Paul Marc because of Eric Tobin at the label. He basically told me that he thought Paul Marc would be a good creative mind to help me write songs and that he would bring something good to the table which turned out to be true. Everyone has a different approach when it comes to writing songs and so I think it’s important to be open minded about learning new ways to write songs and so I’ve learned a lot from Paul Marc.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'Waves' to put together, and why? I think the hardest song to put together was ‘Delete’ because the demo was just so different from the actual song on the album. It was basically a demo that Paul Marc had and we decided to change the music completely to get what we have on the album. The original idea was a lot more pop and soft than the actual song but it turned out to be one of my favourites from the album.
How did the artwork for 'Waves' come together? To be honest it doesn’t necessarily have a deep meaning to us, Aiden and I were basically at the Toronto aquarium and at one point he basically turned to me and said “maybe a jellyfish would be a good album cover?” and so we just took a picture of a jellyfish at the aquarium on his phone and that’s pretty much how we got the idea for the album cover.
What did you find the most rewarding about doing an acoustic EP for 'Waves'? My YouTube channel was very popular with the acoustic covers so I think the acoustic EP we put out was just a good way to create some sort of throwback to my YouTube channel and the acoustic covers and I also love to do acoustic songs because it gives the listener your perspective about a song edit that sometimes feel more authentic.
How excited are you for your upcoming performances at Slam Dunk Festival? We are very excited because I think this line-up might be the best one the festival has ever seen so far and we are just very stoked to be part of it. We have never played this festival before and we just loved our first time in the UK. I think we’re going to love this and the next time even more. We can’t wait to see familiar faces at the festival and hopefully some new ones.
What else can we expect to see from Story Untold in 2019? We are currently writing songs for our second album and we really want to take our time for this album and we want to make the best songs we can write. We are going to try to create something new and it’s going to be very different from our first album. We might also start taking dance classes.
Interview with Cody
So, how did you get to the album title 'Midnight', and what does it mean to you? We realised that this album was going to be a change for us, at least a change from the ‘Upside Down’ era. We wanted our edge back and the idea was to take our old selves and darken it up, almost if there was a knob you could turn down. We realised there was a colour “Midnight blue” and the word midnight popped out to us because it had so much to do with us. ‘Midnight’ represents change, the painful thoughts that plague you while you lay awake in bed, saying goodbye to the past. That time holds so much power. It came to us so easily and fit our plan so perfectly that it was such a quick and easy decision to go with that name for our new album.
So, how did the music video for 'Lonely Dance' come together, and what was it like to work with Shelby Parks? Shelby Parks rules! We’ve actually been working with her every step of the way on this album visually, from photos to every one of our music videos. She really understood the aesthetic we were going for on ‘Midnight’ and has been great in helping us bring that world to life. For ‘Lonely Dance’ we wanted to deal with complete and total isolation, so what’s more isolated then being in outer space? On top of that, my character in the video was still unsatisfied with that so we end up offing the other crew members on the ship so he can live in complete isolation. We really wanted to drive the point home of ‘Lonely Dance’.
Also, how did your latest released track 'Dancing With The Devil' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind it? We actually wrote that with the Gomez brothers of Twin XL. It was originally a lot more pop sonically and we adjusted it with Mike to bring that rock edge into it so it could fit the rest of the landscape of ‘Midnight’. It originally didn’t have a bridge to it but I had this rap I had stowed away one night that matched the content of the lyrics, plugged it in and it fit perfectly! The song is about some people we’ve worked with that really made us feel like they had our best interest at heart and then when it wasn’t going their way, they just abandoned us with total ease. It was a real eye opener to pay attention to the people around you and what they really are there for. Life’s too short to be dancing with the devil.
Clarinet, trumpet, strings, live horns, a gospel choir all appear on the record. So, can you tell us about how you experimented with different instruments? Dan and I met in a marching band in high school so we always try to incorporate live instruments whenever the song calls for it. I feel like that’s always been an element to our identity as Set It Off. On ‘Midnight’ we got to accomplish a couple of firsts though! We actually got to bring in a live string quartet, a live brass quartet and a live gospel choir. For the quartets I got to bring my music education into the band and I took the parts we wrote, transcribed it onto sheet music and then I conducted for them. It was honestly exhilarating! I really feel adding those organic elements adds another intense element of emotion to a song, but of course, only when it needs it.
Matt Appleton, Skyler Acord, Wayfarers all also join you on 'Midnight'. How did they end up collaborating with Set It Off, and what were they like to work with? First off we love and respect all of these people so much! Matt we met through mutual friends and have played shows with his band Reel Big Fish, Sky was a similar situation but we met him through Issues obviously, and Wayfarers is the artist name for Katie Cecil and we met her through mutual friends out in LA. With Matt we had this song Dan and I were working on in a hotel one night and when we got to the bridge we immediately thought, “this needs a sexy sax solo” haha. We’ve never had a sax solo in a song and that’s absurd to me considering how we love to utilise multiple instruments but we never had the song for it to be fair, but ‘I Want You (Gone)’ was the one. With Sky, we were talking in the pool at Tyler’s place on tour once and we just realised how much we had in common with our musical interests and what we love from songwriting and we said we wanted to write together and it just worked out that he was in LA when we were writing so I texted him and invited him to come write, he did and the rest is history. Also, goes without saying, but that man is a BEAST on bass, had to give him props for slaying that part in ‘Happy All The Time’. Katie (Wayfarers) was an absolute Godsend. We were working on ‘Don’t Go To Bed Angry’ and one night when I was lying awake in bed (cue “Midnight Thoughts” reference) I had this idea that it should be a conversation between a male and female. It was originally only intended to be just me singing it. I hit her up on the day we were tracking and asked if she could come in, she came in THAT day and completely nailed every part. Every time we showed someone the demo their eyebrows raised and they said “Whoa, who is that?” I just feel like our voices work really well together and I’m so happy she’s a part of that song, her voice really took it to the next level.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'Midnight' to put together? For me, ‘Unopened Windows’. My Dad passed away due to cancer in 2008, it took me four years to write a song about him (’Dad’s Song’) and then another six years to follow it up. It’s never an easy topic for me to unload because it will always hurt to reopen that wound. I swear I downed half a bottle of whiskey trying to get through those lyrics. On top of that the tune ‘Danny Boy’ meant a lot to my Father and I. The first time I saw him really cry hard was when he told me the meaning of it, it’s about a Father telling his son (that’s about to go off to war) that he might not be alive when he comes home. To us it was about him battling cancer and me about to leave to Ohio for College. So in both of the songs about him you’ll hear ‘Danny Boy’ towards the end. It’s actually played by Dan on my fathers trumpet, and this time I play it as well on clarinet. To me it feels like he’s there playing it with me and it gets me every time.
How excited are you for your upcoming UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? I AM SO EXCITED! I don’t mean to yell at you, it’s just hard for me to contain myself right now haha. So far the UK is completely sold out and it’s looking like it might be our fist completely sold out tour (including the European dates) ever! It’s extremely exciting and encouraging to see the response to the new era across the pond. We have so much love for you all!
What else can we expect to see from Set It Off in 2019? Touring touring and more touring. We’ll be damned if this upcoming tour is the only time you see us in 2019, we can’t get enough of y’all and we promise we’ll put on a hell of a show for you!
So you're currently celebrating ten years as The Word Alive. Congratulations! What has it been like for you to look back at how far you've come, and what you've achieved? I think that the craziest part is just how we've made it this far, through all the adversities any band faces. It can be really hard to maintain doing what you love, but we've been fortunate and have had amazing fans over the years. I look forward to many more years.
Let's throw in an older question. Looking back, was there a particular moment when you realised that you had the potential to make a career out of The Word Alive? Honestly, I was already pursuing my career before The Word Alive and the moment I heard the first demos and felt something special I believed in the band. Once I joined the band, that belief only grew and I've been willing to do whatever I have to in order to keep TWA growing and moving forward!
Looking back on the release of 'Violent Noise', how happy are you with this record still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of The Word Alive? I think when you look at our discography we have always proven we don't make the same records twice. I love â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Violent Noiseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and I feel like it's an amazing record with some of my favourite TWA songs to date. I definitely can see us playing a lot of those songs for a very long time.
Interview with Telle
Is there anything you learnt from creating that record, that you'll take forward with you as musicians, maybe something that you'll apply to a future record? We always learn and grow from each of our records, the reaction to the songs, the way we play them and how much we enjoy them. We really believe in our music and can't wait to continue the journey with new music in the future.
With the song 'RISE', you worked alongside The Glitch Mob and Mako. Can you tell us about what it was like to put it together, as well as seeing it become a part of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship? Originally they contacted us to have me try out, I did and went through multiple stages of tryouts over the course of 5 months or so. Once I learned I got it, I went into the studio and tracked it. It was amazing to work with Riot Games, Mako (Alex Seaver) and The Glitch Mob dudes. Everyone involved is not only super talented, but everyone has become great friends which makes it all worth it. The championship was an insane event, and I'll remember it for the rest of my life.
It's been ten years since the release of 'Deceiver', looking back on this album, what do you remember the most about putting it together? Almost to the 10 year mark, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Empireâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; actually turns 10 this year though and I'm still super proud of both our EP and our first record. What I remember the most about them was traveling to Florida and being very excited to create. We were just all so eager to live in the moment and had no expectations at that point. We were just getting to know each other and enjoying what life was bringing us.
How excited are you to be taking on Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? We're going to try to cram in the best possible set for our fans new and old, this is our 4th SDF I believe, and it gets better every year. Playing on such an amazing festival where they really take care of the bands is great. We're also playing an intimate warm up show in London at The Underworld to give fans a much longer set. I suggest both of course.
What has it been like to put together a set list that sees you celebrate ten years as The Word Alive then? Have you maybe re-visited material that you haven't played in a long time? We definitely have been adding in songs we haven't played in years, or in some cases ever as far as touring goes. We have been trying to come up with the best set list at around 90 minutes or so. It's going to be a mix of everything people have ever loved from our band for sure.
Also, as a UK based publication. We must ask, what do you remember the most from coming to the UK for the first time? I just remember thinking that it was so amazing to be touring in the UK, somewhere I never expected music to take me. The shows were amazing and it has become one of our favourite places to tour in the world.
What else can we expect to see from The Word Alive in 2019? We definitely will have some new music, so stay tuned!
So, how happy have you been with the response to 'Skin&Earth' so far, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Lights? All the hard work that went into stringing together one of the most complex projects in my career really feels like it’s paid off. Seeing fans coming to shows in cosplay, getting to show up at cons and talk comics and hang out in comic shops, even use a bit of fantastical surreal visuals live, it’s all been pretty much my brand since day one and now it feels like my career evolved into its final form. I say that loosely though because there is so much more to come and so much more I want to give, and ‘Skin&Earth’ gave me the guts to try it.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Skin&Earth' at the moment and why? ‘Savage’ is one of my favourite songs live, both full band and acoustically. It’s got a huge dynamic and such a love tone of aggression that feels good.
Is there anything you learnt from creating 'Skin&Earth' that you'll take with you going forward as a musician? It just solidified to me that music has no boundaries and no rules. We get spooked into doing the same thing everyone else does out of fear of failure, but when you step out and try new things you’ll be amazed how much fun it is. The worst thing that could happen is that music feels just same old.
How did your track 'Love Me' w Felix Cartal come together, and what did you find the most rewarding about working on it? We met at a Juno Awards after party last spring and chatted about working on something. Shortly after that he sent me a couple ideas and I was feeling really inspired by this one track so I ran to my studio and tracked the first verses and pre-choruses that came into my head (the chorus was different initially) and I sent it off to him right away. From there we just kept sending it back and forth until we were both in love with it. In music we all crave those moments when something comes easily and this was one of them for sure.
How exciting was it to see your track 'Drama Free' (with Deadmau5) being used on the Netflix film Polar, and why do you think it works so well for that particular movie? Man, it is SO perfect for that movie, I lost my sh*t when I first saw the trailer. When he sent me the original track it had this darkness and aggression I hadn’t really heard in his stuff before, and suddenly all I could picture was Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill. So I started writing a topline inspired by that. Polar reminds me a bit of a Tarantino film so I couldn’t believe how well it matched.
The music video for 'Drama Free' is pretty crazy! How did the idea for it come together, and what was it like to be a part of? I had no idea what the video was going to be like when I was going into it, I just knew it would involve a lot of green screen. I showed up to the shoot and it was just a green screen and ONE guy. One guy to rule them all. Nick DenBoer is an utter genius. He shot it all, edited it all and did all the post production. I didn’t know what it would look like until he sent back edits. I loved it! It’s such a trip.
We must ask. Have you started work on any more new material just yet, if so, what do you think fans can expect from it? I’ve been writing a ton actually. And working on a ton of collabs as well so lots more to come in that department. It’s been a very inspiring year to say the least. And though I can’t divulge too much right now, I will say I’m in the process of mixing the acoustic album (then comes the wait to be pressed on vinyl which is ridiculously long) and on that album will be a few new songs. So that should hold people over until the new stuff comes. Changes are afoot though! Stay tuned.
It's been ten years since the release of 'The Listening', looking back on the album, what do you remember the most about putting it together? Ah man, that was a tough time of my life. It was actually a really dark time, I was living alone on the other side of the country from my family for the first time and really facing depression and a bunch of stuff I think a lot of people go through. So most of my memories of that era involve nervousness and chaos and confusion, and really only finding solace in creating music. And a lot of Warcraft. I wouldn’t ever want to go back to that place, but I’m glad I was there.
How excited are you for your upcoming performances at Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? I’m so stoked to come back finally! It’s been forever. You can expect a 30 minute set of bangers, probably mostly from ‘Skin&Earth’ since it’ll be the first time I’ve brought it overseas. Throw and go sets are always like spinning a wheel and hoping you luck out with no tech issues so festival sets always come with that caveat and I have learned to enjoy the challenge.
What do you remember the most from performing in the UK for the first time? Oh god… I don’t even know if I remember my first show in the UK. I definitely remember the first time people were singing along, and it was in some basement in London. Maybe the borderline or something, I can’t remember the name of the venue. And it was sweaty and fun, and I was shocked I could be so far from home and still have people sing with me.
What else can we expect to see from Lights in 2019? I have a lot in the works, from new comics to new music, S&E acoustic, more collabs, and lots of projects, so though I seem quiet right now, I’m working every day on stuff and have many wonderful and delightful secrets I can’t wait to share.
Interview with Tom
You released ‘Parallel Universe’ last year, when did the first glimpses of that album come about? Was it a particular song or a moment that sparked everything? It wasn’t until Tim and I got together and wrote ‘Light Up The Room’ which is the first track on the album, we demo’d that one and pushed ourselves a little bit to have more fun with the recording process and add some elements in the music that we never have before, just more electronic stuff. Once that demo was done and we had that song written then it was like, “Holy sh*t this is awesome!”. Then we went back to some songs that were already written before this and we gave them a similar treatment put them in that same vibe. From that point on we basically just knew that that it felt right, it feels exactly like what we want to sound like. We found it in that one demo. That led to the rest of the album.
You said there wasn’t as much pressure when it came to writing this album, in that way was it different to previous albums? With other albums there was never a pressure, but there was definitely more, like where we had a big hit like ‘Hey There Delilah’, there was always that thought of like “Okay cool, so what’s the next hit going to be?” Or like “We need to make sure we’ve got a couple of songs on the album that are in that realm of ‘Hey There Delilah’.” It was almost like a pressure that we had put on ourselves, not from the label or from anything outside. It was more that we needed to keep up with what we think the fans want or with what we think the radio might want. In that sense, with ‘Parallel Universe’, we kind of went away for a second so coming back and working on this album was no real pressure, we didn’t put pressure on ourselves, it was more like “Hey, we’ve had some big hits, our business is good but what do we want now. Forget about what we think the radio wants or the label wants or anything like that, what music do we want to make?” And that’s what we did. So in that case it was definitely more like “Lets make a kick ass album!”.
You came back and released ‘Your Body’ as the first single, what was it about that song that made it the first song you wanted people to hear? That’s definitely one of my favourite songs off the album, but I think that the reason that we went with that first was because the label let us do what we wanted to do with the album so when it came to spending money on a video and pushing a single we let them have a little bit of a say in it. I think that they loved ‘Your Body’ (and so did we), because they felt that it had that similar vibe to some of our hits like ‘Rhythm of Love’ and ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ and ‘Hey There Delilah’. In fact it was a little bit more of a chill/romantic song, but it was a good bridge between us and the label, as they then knew where we were and where we were going. ‘Your Body’ was the transitional track, the gateway to the rest of the album.
The video has a very Sci-Fi esque dystopian feel, how did that idea come about, and what was it like to work on? When we were in the studio we wanted the album to feel a little bit robotic, a little bit futuristic but also a little bit throwbacky aswell. Like an 80s Sci-Fi album that was made in 2020. That was our guidelines for it, what we wanted it to sound and feel like. When coming up with the video ideas we kept right in line with that and wanted to feel like, “Wow I could have seen this on Channel 7 in 1986!” whilst at the same time feeling current. It was definitely the idea to keep with that Sci-Fi, futuristic, retro vibe that we had with the sound of the album, we were conscious of that and carried it on to the videos.
So, you guys did form a side project called ‘That Lying Bitch’. Do you think that this helped you with the creative process for Plain White T’s or do you consider them two separate things? I definitely consider them two separate things, but there was something about doing the ‘TLB’ (‘That Lying Bitch’) stuff, it was just so much fun to break away. With the T’s there was like a little bit of pressure, we wanted to write hits, we wanted to write things that people would connect with on a massive level. How that band started was a buddy of mine got broken up with by his girlfriend who he was in a band with and she cheated on him with their manager, it was a totally messed up story. We just decided to start this band and write all these punk rock break up songs. With every song we had no intention of getting big or being on the radio or anything, the whole point of it was just to have fun. It just feels like we’re all 15 getting together in my Dad’s basement jamming Green Day songs or something. It takes us back to those days where all music is meant to be fun with your buddies. Being able to do a project like that and stepping away from the T’s thing, not worrying at all about any success or any commerciality or anything like that, and then coming back to the T’s, I definitely do think that it gave me a bit of a fresh outlook. It was like cool, it was like a whole new perspective - like if we want to we can swear in a couple songs, there are no rules, let’s just make something badass. It definitely helps free the mind.
When you guys got huge with ‘Hey There Delilah’, especially in the UK, you were associated almost as a safe band, where parents could allow their children to listen to you. It must be a good balance for you as a musician to have the side project where you can do what you want? Without having any pressure it can be, just having fun and doing whatever the hell we want. We brought a little bit of that attitude back to the T’s, like “Hey we are a band, we’re making art, we’re telling our own stories here and we don’t have to fit it in a box.” TLB helped me get to that point.
I didn’t want to spend too much time on ‘Hey There Delilah’, but I did find out it’s being adapted into a TV show which I imagine is so surreal for you. How did that come about? It’s interesting, the lifeline of the song is just crazy because people still love it, people still ask about it all the time. It’s just wild that I was able to write a three and a half minute song that has lasted over ten years now in people’s hearts. I did this song from the Spongebob musical on Broadway and some of the producers really loved the song and really liked that I did a lot to help out with the musical and promoting it, so they reached out to our manager and said “Hey this guy is great, we love Tom, have you ever thought of making ‘Hey There Delilah’ into a musical or into a movie or something like that?” and my manager said “Oh I don’t know, let me connect you guys” and she connected me to some of the producers and we sat down a few times and thought “Man, this would be a super cool idea!” We drafted a little story curve that was inspired by the song but had a little more ups and downs and a few dramatic twists and funny moments to make it more of a storyline. We recently started pitching it to networks and production companies and nothing yet that I can really say, no real big news that I can talk about, but we are meeting with a lot of great people and a lot of cool things are on the horizon. That’s all I can say about that. I’m a huge film buff so shooting videos are some of my favourite times and favourite parts of being in the band, so to be able to be involved with something like this, whether it ends up being a full TV show or a little series or a movie, we’re not quite sure yet, but either way I am so excited to venture into that world and have fun and live in that world for a while. It’s going to be cool.
I was on my honeymoon last year, and saw you guys at the Food and Drink Festival in Disney! Did you ever think you’d perform a show like that for a huge company like them? No way. It’s pretty cool, it’s funny because Disney is a place that people say is their yearly vacation, they save all year and plan on it and bring their families there. It’s pretty freakin’ expensive to go there and all of that stuff. So the fact that we keep getting invited back, a lot of us have kids too, so to be able to have this free Disney vacation, stay in a nice hotel, get hooked up with some park hoppers and stuff, and then on top of it get paid to play shows there for all of these other families and people that are spending their vacation there having the time of their lives, that’s pretty special. It’s a really cool thing we get to do. There’s a lot of cool things that we’ve been able to do with the band that we wouldn’t expect. Obviously travelling the world, we’ve been to the UK, we’ve been to Europe, Japan, Australia and all these crazy places. We’ve done stuff at military bases where troops are stationed and they haven’t seen their families, some of them, for months or years and we go and play and entertain them. It’s pretty cool to think that we can play music for a living and basically our job is to make people have a good time, that’s pretty awesome.
With all that you have done in your career, is there still anything that you’d like to do, like festivals, countries, or anything random? You know what’s funny, we’ve played main stage at Reading and Leeds which was always a huge one for us, so that was super cool. But we haven’t done Coachella or Lollapalooza and I feel like those would be super fun to play in America. I think those would be huge accomplishments for us, and you’d think we’d be able to do that. For some reason, timing or whatever the case is, we haven’t been able to do those, but hopefully that’ll be on our horizon.
That’s very surprising as Coachella is very diverse so I’m surprised you guys haven’t played there. Yeah, I feel that we eventually will. It’s still on the radar as far as goals or playing shows, things like that. I’m really excited to get back to the UK, it’s been a while since we’ve been there so that’ll be really fun. I feel that getting more international stuff, it’s always a good time, it feels so cool being in a different country, it has a vibe to it which makes it feel like an adventure every time.
I think the last time you guys played in the UK was around 2011 wasn’t it? Yeah! That sounds about right. The side project (That Lying Bitch) was over there about two years ago, we actually opened up for Madina Lake on a little UK tour. With Plain White T’s it’s been a while.
Is it just Slam Dunk that’s made you come back? For the last couple of years we were working on ‘Parallel Universe’ so once we got done with that and that came out it was like, “Okay, we gotta get back to the UK. We gotta do this and this etc” We had a little checklist going. Our agent put it on the radar and Slam Dunk picked up, our agent put out a few little shows around it so we could play the festival and thought that would be a good re-entry to the UK and the fans.
Definitely, are you excited for the Slam Dunk performances? Absolutely, it’s going to be a blast. We’re excited for the whole line up, Saves The Day and The Get Up Kids are two of my favourite bands, they’re playing on a different stage from us but I’m excited to try to catch their sets, that’d be really cool. Of course there are a ton of other bands but those two I was like, “Holy cow I didn’t expect them to be there.”
This year the line up is just ridiculous! What memories do you have from the UK? We have very very fond memories. Our first sold out tour that we ever done was in the UK. I remember we played London three times at different places that were sold out, Roundhouse was sold out which I know is a really legendary spot. The other places were pretty substantial too. That memory alone of how much you guys embraced us really meant a lot to us. On the other end of the spectrum we’ve had some of our craziest shows, we played Reading and Leeds main stage, we tell this story all the time because it’s one of our favourites, but we were on the same stage as Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot and Tenacious D. It was this metal day and we were on the main stage with all these bands and right before we were going on Slipknot announced that their singer was sick so they cancelled and they were on right after us. Everybody in the crowd was all really annoyed, like “Oh what the hell!”, and then Plain White T’s go on, who already kind of stick out like a sore thumb on that stage. There was full on bottling and insanity, dodging the whole time while playing, it was real fun. And then when we played ‘Delilah’ the crowd opened up the wall of death, so they split up on two sides and before they charged together there was one dude in the middle who didn’t get the memo, he was just flipping us off then he turns around and moons us and as soon as he pulls his pants down to moon us the wall just literally eats him up and closes in around him, it was the craziest moment from on stage. I don’t know how we kept on performing because it was like, “Is that guy dead?” Pretty memorable for sure.
Sounds crazy, It’s not a song you imagine a wall of death to! Exactly, the irony of it was pretty amazing. I think we might repeat that for Slam Dunk, we might get the crowd to split up on that first chorus, when we sing “Oh it’s what you do to me” everyone just slams into each other.
I’ve seen bands do a wall of hugs, you could try that. A wall of hugs? Oh my God that’s genius. Yes, I love it.
Apart from Slam Dunk, what else can we expect to see from Plain White T’s in 2019. Hopefully we’ll get our asses back over there one more time before the end of the year, we’re basically just super excited about ‘Parallel Universe’ and we are just going to be pushing that, touring the States, trying to get back to the UK and Europe before the end of the year, and just really pushing this album as much as we can. Hopefully we will be able to announce something with that ‘Hey There Delilah’ show idea. We are hoping to get new music out next year as well. So there’s a lot of cool things happening. We’re all feeling pretty inspired and the motivation is kicking right now so we’re gonna roll with it.
Sounds like it’s going to be a good year for you guys. Hell yeah.
Interview with Ryan
So, looking back on 'Wolves', how happy have you been with the response to the record so far, and what do you think it's done for the representation of Story of the Year? I am thrilled with the response to ‘Wolves’. The fans genuinely seem to love it, and perhaps more importantly, they understand it; they understand the concept of the “Wolves” metaphor. Additionally, I’m certain this is our most critically acclaimed record. Alternative Press gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars - a rating that is usually reserved for the uber-hip or undeniably groundbreaking bands/artists, Billboard praised it, and this was the case with most media outlets. ‘Wolves’ garnered great reviews pretty much across the board.
What did you find the most rewarding about working with PledgeMusic for 'Wolves? I am immeasurably proud of the campaign we ran. We were all pretty burnt out on the idea of signing another record deal, and instead intrigued with the notion of being our own little cottage industry. In essence, finding our true fans, and being in business with and for them. We had a vision of being our own record label, hiring our own independent contractors (publicists, directors, photographers, etc) and just sort of operating like a start-up or small business. Now, this approach won’t get you to perform at the halftime show at the super bowl or give you #1 top 40 hit, but you can be a working band, make pure art, and run the business you want to run.
Tough question time. What was the hardest track on 'Wolves' to put together? Honestly, any tracks that were overly hard or stressful were tossed out. We had like 30 songs, and we only focused on the songs that Dan immediately and instinctually had vocal ideas for. Every other album we’ve made had those songs that we just kept trying to force because the guitar parts were cool or whatever, sometimes Dan would literally spend six months trying to figure out a chorus to make a song “work”. And that always wound up sounding forced. We didn’t do that this time around. If lyrics and melodies didn’t organically flow, the song wasn’t used. Some of the coolest guitar work I’ve ever done in my life isn’t on the record because we didn’t want the vocals forced, and I’m at a point in my life where that’s totally fine. Great, even.
Have you started work on any new material just yet, if so, what do you think fans can expect from it? Oh yeah. I have enough music to record two new SOTY albums. I just have to properly demo them up. I never really stop writing. As far as what fans can expect, they can expect from here on out us doing whatever we want to do. We are free. That was the mindset of ‘Wolves’, and if I am ever in a different mindset in regards to creating music, I’ll quit.
It's been just over ten years since the release of 'The Black Swan'. Looking back on this release, what do you remember the most about putting it together? We recorded most of that album with Elvis Baskette at his beach house/studio in Bavon, Virginia. It was magical. The town has maybe 400 people, there is no cell service, the backyard was the ocean, there was literally nothing to do but be creative, party, and hang with your bandmates. That sense of detachment from the rest of the world, that complete removal from the normal day to day humdrum is what I remember most about that album. It was like a private summer camp at a beach house, and it was impossible to not feel creative.
How rewarding was it for you guys to do a tenth anniversary tour for 'Page Avenue', and what songs did you really enjoy re-visiting? It’s funny, sometimes I kind of wince just a tiny bit when bands do those anniversary tours and albums, because there is a slight feeling like, that’s all the band has left, you know? Or it’s a money grab, or cheesy. But I got over that instantly. I was wrong. It turned out to be incredibly rewarding diving fully back into a record that has everything to do with why people even know our band. That record started it all, and so many people, us included, have loads of nostalgia attached to that album in particular. Some of those songs had never been performed live until that tour, so that was also a fun challenge.
How did Adam Russell end up re-joining Story of the Year, and what has it been like to tour/write alongside him once more? Long story very short, it was time for a line-up change, and we didn’t want a hire-on dude to stand there and play the bass, nor did we want to just put bass on tracks. As corny as it sounds, our band has always been more of a gang than a band. The foundation was built upon friendship. Dan, Josh, and myself grew up within a mile of each other and spent years skateboarding together before there was even a thought of Story of the Year. We met Adam in the late 90s, also well before SOTY, and he was one of the few people that seamlessly fit into our little crew. So, flash forward to last year, we found ourselves in need of a bass player, and we were very much of the mindset that we wanted to keep it as core as possible. We wanted the original dummy named Adam Russell back in our gang. And it’s been wonderful! Everything is very low drama, loose, and just fun and easy. The chemistry between the four of us just works. I think we’re gay.
How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Slam Dunk Festival, and what can attending fans expect? Stoked! We haven’t been to the UK in many years, so we’re definitely energised for this festival. And the line up is rad! So many friends. Fans can expect us to rock as hard as ever, maybe even harder. Maybe a backflip or two. Sweat. Passion. Smiles. Just a bunch of dudes from Missouri who love what they do.
What do you remember the most from touring in the UK for the first time? It was maybe 2003 or 2004, and the UK was one of the first (if not the first?) bits of international touring we did. I remember being absolutely gobsmacked that there were people on the other side of the planet standing in line to see my friends and I be idiots and play music. Blew my mind. I just couldn’t believe that a ton of people across the ocean knew us. It was everything I’d ever wanted.
What else can we expect to see from Story of the Year in 2019? We’re going to do a handful of select dates and festivals, and then I’m ready to get back in the studio!
Interview with Kennedy
How did your recent 8123 Fest go, and what do you enjoy the most about putting this festival together? Pat: It was incredible, we almost doubled the attendance from the first year which to me just feels like more and more of the 8123 family were able to experience something together. I loved seeing the joy on people’s faces walking around all day. I felt like everyone could feel a sense of community like we were all a part of a really special day and event. I’ve never been to a festival where it seemed like everyone wanted to be there that bad. Every detail of it somehow worked out perfectly.
So, how did you get to the album title 'You Are Ok', and what does it mean to you? Pat: John our singer always comes up with the album titles usually pretty early before we record and sometimes even before we start writing. When I heard it I instantly felt like it was right for the album. It was simple and bold. The album is so bold and in your face we needed a title that hit you with a lot of emotion right away as well.
What made you want to release 'Numb Without You' first, and can you tell us a bit about how this track in particular came together? Pat: This song really scared us at first because it is such a left turn from anything we have done before. We loved it though and kept working at it and we feel like it sort of shaped the whole album. It made us feel free to take risks on other songs. John came up with the string part that starts the song and honestly not much changed at all from the original idea. It came together fast and we didn’t want to mess around with it cause it felt so good.
In regards to the sound on 'You Are Ok', you've said that it's "risky", so can you elaborate on that, and maybe how you've progressed/grown as musicians on this release? Pat: I just feel that we made something very bold. We wanted a record that was meant to be played for a lot of people. We wanted to make an album full of anthems and I think we accomplished that. We threw everything we had at this one and didn’t hold back at all or play it safe on any song. I think the progression we made was to learn to not be afraid to try things that feel outside of our comfort zones.
Who produced the album, and how would you say they helped shape it? Pat: We worked with Matt Squire for the first time in over a decade. He took what we had and just enhanced it. Made the sounds bigger and was really helpful with some of the more electronic elements that we had not worked with much before.
Tough question time. What was the hardest song on 'You Are Ok' to put together, and why? Kennedy: When we approach any new record, there is a conscious choice to force change in our writing process or the process as a whole. ‘We Are All The Same (Broken Parts)’ was a challenge based on the parameters we set for ourselves. Adding in new elements to this record, like the occurrence of multiple part string arrangements and other new foreign sounds made the writing process tricky. We liked the bones of it. And really believed in it. But couldn’t settle on something. Just needed the right vibe. Near the end of the writing process, while approaching the song again, things kind of just fell into place. This was a song that just couldn’t materialise until we had the other songs around it.
How did the artwork for 'You Are Ok' come together, and what does it mean to you? Kennedy: To me, the OK symbol is so powerful and empowering. I don’t want to cloud the meaning, when it so simply explains itself. When I see it, I feel connected, and honestly OK. I hope others will attach their experiences and connect also.
Looking back on 'Lovely Little Lonely', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it's done for the representation of The Maine? Kennedy: I couldn’t be more proud of where ‘LLL’ has taken us. That album put a confidence in us that I think really carried over into these works. It created a really great place for us to pivot from.
Is there anything you learnt from creating 'Lovely Little Lonely' that you maybe went on to apply to 'You Are Ok'? Kennedy: Absolutely, all of it applies when we move forward. We focused very intently on what elements of this record would push a new one. Because of ‘LLL’ and everything before it, there is a possibility of ‘YAO’. We learned that in order to create something grand you must create a vision. So we spent months planning. Having the album art done in advance was something new on ‘LLL’. And it helped us see the blurry end image. The bigger picture. We took that even further this time and created the whole world in which ‘You Are Ok’ could live in. We spent countless hours and days just discussing how we wanted it to feel. And had concepts and art and vibes well into the development stages early.
How excited are you for your upcoming European/UK tour, and what can attending fans expect? Kennedy: Ready and fired up, I’m certain that they can expect a lot of energy! These are some of our biggest shows to date over there. Let’s go!
What else can we expect to see from The Maine in 2019? Kennedy: This record has an urgency to it. I am eagerly awaiting the journey in this new era. Lots of time on the road, and as much as we can possibly fit in.
Interview with James
Firstly before we talk about the present, can you tell us about how you came to join Dream Theater back in 1991? Long story short, I was in a band in Toronto, Canada Winter Rose and we were touring with a female artist, her name was Lee Aaron and she was the metal queen of Canada so she took a liking to me as a singer and a performer and she asked for one of our demos of Winter Rose. I thought she just wanted to listen to it and then she put that CD out to some labels and eventually the CD ended up in MCA Records in New York. MCA Records were associated with Dream Theater who had been looking for a singer for two years. So essentially Kevin Moore called me up and asked if I would come down and do a jam with the band and I said “Yeah sure!” Mike Portnoy was talking to me at the same time and making arrangements for me to hook up with the band. I came down and had a big jam one night and the next day we started demo-ing. After this they asked me to be in the band. BOOM, that’s how it happened. So that’s how it went down but it was pretty cool because I didn’t see it coming. They said that I should listen to their first album ‘When Dream and Day Unite’. I did, and I didn’t know what to expect, I heard that they were progressive but I wanted to hear it before I believed it and when I heard it, it reminded me a lot of Rush and Iron Maiden so I was immediately captivated by it. I was like “Holy sh*t, these guys are amazing”. I knew right away that this was definitely something that I wanted to be a part of.
What inspired you to want to be a singer and did you ever think you would be where you are today? Well since the age of five. I started singing when I was five, and I also played drums until I was about seventeen. My mum and dad always told me I would be walking around the house singing to the radio and I do recall doing that all the time. I had an affinity for music from a very tender age and then in elementary school I had a music teacher and she took a liking to me as she could see when I was in music class that I was very much into music and singing. She got me into a singing contest. I went to music festivals and stuff like that and I just loved doing it so by the time I was twelve I was already starting to put my first band together. I was the lead singer and drummer then I continued to be the lead vocalist until I was seventeen. I always knew I was eventually just going to end up being a singer because as good a drummer as I was I knew that that wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of, I wanted to be a frontman and a singer so that became my main focus. By the time I moved down to Toronto when I was eighteen, that’s exactly what I was focused on and it was my primary goal, but I would say around the age of thirteen listening to guys like Robert Plant, Steven Tyler and Steve Perry, these guys I just remember being like “That’s who I want to be” my all-time favourite was Freddie Mercury, listening to Queen was a thrill for me, the way he expressed himself. So that’s what I aspired to. I still remember my father at the age of ten saying “I noticed you’re listening to some pretty cool music and I always hear you singing to it, just remember create your own sound because we already have one of them.” That was indelible to me, it really left a mark and I still remember it like it was yesterday. If I don’t create myself then I’m just a jukebox hero right.
Onto the new album, can you tell us about the writing and recording process for ‘Distance Over Time’? So I guess it was the first time we were living together to actually write and record the album. We did record ‘Images and Words’ when we lived together previously, but the album was already written. So the difference with ‘Distance Over Time’ is that we actually got together to write the album and then record it and the experience was amazing. I think that’s why it sounds so organic and cohesive because the environment was never interrupted. We had no distractions and because of that it wasn’t just about being in a room that was constructive and productive and meeting our goal but it was also about all the in-between moments. Like when you’re sitting down having a bite to eat or having a glass of wine together at the end of the session. For the most part you’re consistently having the conversation that surrounds the music, the direction, the feel of it. I think because of that it was something that naturally availed itself to making the music resonate with where we were at that particular moment. Some of the ideas were seeds from sound check or an idea from someone but for the most part, 95% of what’s on that album happened in the room. If someone had a riff or an idea we were then feeding off that and making sure that the direction and embellishment from that idea had a purpose. The house was only 100 metres from the studio, so walking back and forth and having conversations sitting in the living room, that’s really some of the most invaluable aspects of the writing session. When you might not have all the instruments in front of you but you’re discussing the possibilities of the music it made it a much more spirited and organic effort and I think you can definitely hear this and the excitement in the music. Going into a studio and just closing the world off from yourself and spending whatever it might be, two weeks or a month and just being focused, it speaks volumes, it speaks loudly to the human element.
We've read that you decided to create a "tight and focused album with a heavier sound", so can you maybe elaborate on that, and how you think the sound of the band has grown/changed on this one? When you look back at ‘The Astonishing’ that was a very huge and daring/brave undertaking for a band but if any band is going to do it, it would have been a band like Dream Theater. There was a rock opera opus and it really called upon the eclectic nature of Dream Theater. I think we are always looking for our sound to evolve or discovering who or what we are, the identity of Dream Theater. To grow, we have always been a band that likes to experiment. With this album, I think we were very much decided and unified on the fact that we wanted to write a more heavy aggressive album but at the same time not have it overtake or monopolise the elements of the music. It was very important for us to look at the bigger picture of Dream Theater. We have always been known as a progressive metal band so that’s the kind of album that we want to create here, to maintain that balance between the two predominant musical genres. Being able to keep that in perspective and I think we achieved it in ‘Distance Over Time’. It speaks highly of the progressive energy, and the metal side is at the forefront. We are always looking at ways individually of how we can express ourselves differently and push ourselves, and how it might give it a different feel. At the same time we are trying to reinforce what has been established, because if you lose your identity or your sound then it’s a kaleidoscope type effect. I think that might work in some instances but not necessarily for a band that is trying to, on one hand push the envelope but on the other hand never lose sight of who or what we are. We are always very focused on that we created something many years ago that very much established us. As a band that has been throughout the eras, it’s very important that we never lose sight of that or else you just lose it completely, it becomes diluted.
What are the main themes and influences that run throughout ‘Distance Over Time’? It’s very spontaneous and I think there was a lot of spontaneity on this album and like I said earlier that’s what gives it its organic feel because it was right in the moment. Some of the best music I feel is something that was just created by stumbling on it in that moment and then taken to another level and a lot of that happened throughout the writing and development of ‘Distance Over Time’. I mean once you get your idea and once someone comes in with something that feels very good or sounds very cool at that point it goes pretty fast. It’s pretty amazing how fast everything does come together. On average with each album if you were to take the actual days of writing and break it down to how many days it actually took for us to write an album, it’s been about three or three and a half weeks. With this album we counted the days that we were actually sitting in the room and actually writing the songs and it was only seventeen days. That doesn’t bring in the fact that it takes three and a half months to put it all together and refining the sections so that it makes sense. Writing the melodies for it, that takes time, writing the lyrics that takes time, recording each person’s parts and making sure it is the best it can be that takes time, so that all adds up well. So yeah, with the influence, if I have to go back to that, it is just being in the same room and feeding off one another’s energy and spontaneous moments where we would hit on a riff on Mike Mangini’s groove or John Petrucci plays something and bang, all of a sudden you’re into an idea and it’s a matter of developing it.
Touring wise, you are celebrating the 20th anniversary of 'Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory', by playing it in full. So how did that idea come about, and what has it been like to re-visit this album? Well it’s the 20th anniversary so that kind of presented itself in a way that we couldn’t ignore it and that was a big album for us. When ‘Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory’ came out the band had gone through a little bit of a dark period after ‘Falling Into Infinity’, it was an album that we needed to make. It was the first conceptual album we had ever written, I think it really redefined and reestablished our relationship with our fans around the world. It was an extremely successful album for us, both critically and fan wise so when we knew we were going to be starting a tour in 2019, it was a no brainer that we needed to go back and re-visit that album, play it from beginning to end. The fans are excited, we can see it on the boards on various social media networks and everyone is constantly talking about it so it will be amazing to play and we are all looking forward to it and the visuals and the production around it is going to be incredible. It will be something that will be remembered for quite some time. It will be a memorable evening for sure and we will obviously be playing songs from ‘Distance Over Time’ as well as other songs from various albums. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
What is it like rehearsing for the live shows especially as your music is so complex, how does a setlist come together? What we do usually is each one of us creates a list of songs that we would like to see played and obviously with ‘Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory’ being played that in itself takes out a big chunk of the evening so we knew that we’re dealing with maybe another hour of music beyond that so we each submitted our list. We look at the songs from each guy and see the common denominator and say “Let’s go with that song.” Rehearsing for it, a lot of it is done well in advance by each guy individually and then usually we get together anywhere up to ten days ahead of rehearsal before we go out then we have like two or three full production days where we are in a theatre with full lights and screens, visuals and imagery and then boom you are hitting the first night and you’re off for the next year doing the same thing. I think individually we all like to be absolutely prepared so that when we are together as a band in the rehearsal room we can just go for it and feel it naturally and be comfortable with it within a few days but yeah that seems to have been the process over the duration of our careers so it works well.
What else can we expect to see from Dream Theater in 2019? Five guys having a great flipping time on stage! We still love doing what we do, we still get a thrill walking on stage every evening and being with our fans and the roar of the crowd and the energy from them and us, it’s indescribable and we look forward to it. We are blessed to be doing what we do and for as long as we have and as successfully as we have. It’s a part of who we are as human beings, we look forward to rekindling and reinforcing our relationship with our fans worldwide and bringing the music to them and having another great tour.
So, when and how did you first get into acting? I started in my last year of high school. It was something I had always wanted to try but never did until then. And I immediately fell in love. But I wasn’t ready to attempt it as a profession until much later, a couple of years after I got out of college.
What was your first major project as an actor, and what do you remember the most about this experience? Man, I don’t know what you’d consider “major”, but my first real paid voice acting gig in Los Angeles was doing the voice for a character on a promotional CD-ROM (remember those, yeah me neither) for 7UP. I remember it not taking very long, me having a lot of fun, and not believing I was getting paid for it. Maybe I’d say my first real foray into anime dubbing was on a show called SD Gundam Force which introduced me to a whole new world of awesome people, and my first lead role in a game was The Prince in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which, to this day, is still one of my favourite roles I’ve ever played.
So, other than being one of the biggest superheroes in the world, what attracted you to the role of Spider-Man? Ha! That they would cast me at all? Seriously, though, we don’t get to just pick and choose the roles we play most of the time, so I was hoping, of course, I’d get it when I auditioned, but you never know. I’ve always loved Spider-Man because he’s kind of the people’s hero. Besides supervillains, he has always fought the same battles that most of us face: taking care of his family, trying to pay rent, falling in love and trying to maintain a relationship. I think it’s why he’s such an enduring character, and I connected with his humanity for sure. And his relentless terrible humour. I’m a recent dad and a connoisseur of dad jokes, so I get it.
What do you remember the most about your first day working on the game? I was nervous as hell. I mean, this is SPIDER-MAN we’re talking about. Everybody already has their perfect vision of him in their head. I was just worried I’d get it wrong. But luckily the team at Insomniac is so good and they’re all such huge Spidey-fans, I knew they wouldn’t let me mess it up.
Who were some of the main people that you worked with behind the scenes, and how did they help shape your approach to the character throughout the game? I worked a lot with Bryan Intihar (Creative Director), Jon Paquette (Lead Writer), and Kris Zimmerman (Performance Director). This collaboration was invaluable, and the whole team really became a second family, and not just because I was spending more time with them then my ACTUAL family.
What was the most rewarding scene for you to do in the Spider-Man game, and why? Man, there are so many little moments I love from the game. Some I love because they ended up coming out so well, and some because I remember how much fun we were having in the studio or on the MoCap stage. The scene where I teach Miles to defend himself has always been a favourite. Anything Spider-Cop. Every scene with Otto and I, and Aunt May’s final scene. They took the time to make sure the scenes were great. The writing was so good, that it made my job easy on one had, and challenged me greatly on the other.
It seems that fans and critics have responded to the game with high praise. So for you, why do you think the story/gameplay has gone over so well to the masses? I think the gameplay really makes you feel like you’re Spider-Man, which is the best thing this game could achieve, and the stellar writing and story makes you connect with the characters and care when things happen to them. If either one of them had been great, but the other not, it wouldn’t have hit. But both story & gameplay are on point and it shows.
You are of course, also known for your work in Ben 10: Omniverse! What do you remember the most about working on this show, and how did the world of Ben 10, compare to anything else that you'd done before? My years on Ben 10 were some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s very rare that an actor will get to play the same character over so many years and get to watch them grow. And grow with them. I was very fortunate to have gotten to do that. It was also a great family. Getting to work with Dwayne McDuffie and Glen Murakami. And at the head, for several years of it, was Andrea Romano. And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of working with Andrea, odds are you’ll list that as your favourite thing about it.
You got to be The Prince in the iconic Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, looking back on this game, what did you enjoy the most about working on it? It was my first lead role in a video game, and still one of my greatest. I got to work with the creator of the PoP franchise, the “father” of The Prince, Jordan Mechner, and it was amazing. He’s a genius. He really took the time with every scene, and it shows. Again, the writing made the game as memorable as it was. Obviously coupled with great gameplay, visuals, and puzzles. At least that’s why I loved it!
You are also known for your work as Son of Batman in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. How did you approach working in such an iconic world? I’m a huge Batman fan, and when I was in high school, The Dark Knight Returns changed my view of what comics could be. I think it did that for a lot of people. I knew the world so well. I literally have a photo of myself and friends dressed as Sons of the Batman that I brought to the recording session to show Andrea Romano as a compliment on her casting acumen. She immediately took it in to show Bruce Timm. It was definitely a feather in my ner cap to have gotten to work on the adaptation of TDKR.
You were a big part of the Naruto world. When you look back, what episode stands out to you as the most rewarding to work on, and why? Still am! We’ve been recording for about 13+ years now, the longest I’ve ever continuously worked on anything! For me, getting to play Sasuke was the first time someone had given me a shot at an animated character with real pathos. It challenged me. And it’s been rewarding because of the worldwide recognition the character (and show) gets. It’s a HUGE mythos.
With over 666 acting credits on IMDb, it's safe to say that you're committed to your craft. So, what do you look for when signing on to a project? What makes it worth your time? The Devil’s IMDb number! I’ve been living the dream. I like projects that challenge me. I like working with good people. I like projects that show excellence in storytelling. I like projects that change the world. I like playing villains.
What character of yours have we missed that you believe really deserves a shout out right now, and why (this could be a really hard question)? Zachery “Max” Levodolinsky. I helped produce the live, interactive Sci-Fi show Oribtal Redux last year and starred in it as well. You can check it out by going to ProjectAlpha.com and signing up for a FREE 60-day trial account by using the code “orbital”. Binge the show in 2.5 hours and still have 59 days and 21.5 hours to cancel your account! Or check out the pilot ep on Nerdist’s YT channel.
What else can we expect to see from you as an actor in 2019? That’s the scary part about being an actor. I don’t know yet! But stay tuned to @YuriLowenthal on Twitter. Whatever it is, I’ll probably be yapping about it there.
How and when did you first get into acting? In 2009, I had a fruitful little career going in Hospitality (I was a club-level concierge at a nice hotel). A large part of my job was simply getting to know my guests. New faces and regulars alike would ask if I'd ever tried acting, and would urge me to give it a shot. Despite my gratuity-driven position, they felt I was extremely genuine and spoke with honest eyes. I've heard the phrase â&#x20AC;&#x153;when you are told something three times by three different people, the universe is trying to tell you something...â&#x20AC;? I heard it about 50 times, and so I listened, quit and adjusted course.
Who were your main acting influences growing up, and why? Even from a young age, I found that I was utterly fascinated by the cinematic experience even though I did not fully understand the artistic processes behind its creation. I often watched movies alone. I knew nothing about acting, but I knew which movies, characters and actors produced a tone that I fell in love with and would go on to emulate even today. It started early with Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. The first Rated-R had a giant impact as well; Terminator 2 with Arnie as the T-800. I was later introduced to the most influential role I'd ever see, Bruce Willis as the one and only John McClane. And finally, Mel Gibson as Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon series helped shape what I am on camera today. There are SO many others, but these are the most responsible!
What was your first major project, and what do you remember the most from this experience? I was about to hang up the towel early on, having had some fun in student films. I submitted to ONE last project, a BFA thesis film called Moriah at Emerson College in Boston. As fate would have it, I booked the role. It was directed by genius Alex Amoling. Because of the Sci-Fi world that he was able to create and the emotions he was able extract from me, it was the first time I felt that I was an “actor” and the fire was lit. The trailer came out months later and that was like a drum full of gasoline! That fire has been ablaze ever since and now, here I am.
How did you get involved with Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, and how did this game compare to anything you had done before in the past? Like any other project, I just submitted to a casting call, auditioned and booked the job. I hadn't heard of the franchise before but I liked the concept behind it. The VO recording took place during the same time I was recording RE2 and the process was similar but it required a different mindset. My character was rough around the edges, the right hand man of the games antagonist. Although he wasn't the innocent type, he actually had a conscience. I tapped into my East-coast swagger and put a little rasp into my voice. Portraying Frank Bowers was my second video game experience and he was actually very fun to play!
You recently got to return for the sequel. So can you tell about your time working on that, and maybe how it compared overall to the first one? Well I actually didn't voice Frank in the sequel. My new character was named Charles who was introduced earlier in the spin-off title The Amazing Adventures of Captain Spirit. This guy was an alcoholic and depressed dad with much lower energy than Frank, though they shared a heavy conscience. It's always great when playing characters with depth and flaws. It gives the actor much to think about in every line reading. Diving into Charles was a trip, and a tough one at that. I had very little in common with him. I also recorded in the booth with the boy who played Charles' son in the game – that was also a first.
Before we get into Resident Evil 2 where you took on the voice acting role of Leon. We’d like to know, were you a big Resident Evil fan before this? I have legitimately been a HUUUGGGEE fan of Resident Evil since 1998 – it is my favourite franchise by a landslide. I fell in love with the challenge to survive the outbreaks, feverishly search for ammo, and blow the rotted undead to Kingdom Come. Something struck a chord and it was wildly fun introducing that magic to my cousin and younger brother! Since then, we have made it tradition to always be together when playing a new RE title. So I STILL haven't played my game and won't be able to until I get to the Boston area in April!
So, when did the opportunity for playing Leon in Resident Evil 2 come up, and what do you remember the most from this time? Being the fan that I was, auditioning for this game in early 2016 was an outer-body experience. I put massive amounts of pressure on myself because I simply had to land this role. There was no other option. I loved the universe too much and I wanted in. I focused my energy like a laser, trained with the help of friends and my wonderful supportive girlfriend and finally retained faith in my abilities throughout the entire process. Didn't have room in my body for doubt.
For Resident Evil 2, what were the CAPCOM team like to work with? A select team from Japan came to our filming sessions in LA. I worked closely with RE2's cinematics producer from CAPCOM, and in LA we had an American cinematics director. Together they helped shape the tone and atmosphere in the game's “cut-scenes”. We filmed them exactly like movies. It was collaborative throughout the entire process and it meant so much that they took my ideas into consideration. That's a dream come true to a fan like me! The end product blows me away, and I have ONLY watched a few videos online. Judging by the general fan reaction out there......this team did a HELL of a job! KUDOS!!! They should all be incredibly proud.
You got to work with motion capture on Resident Evil 2. How was that, and what do you think it brought to the game? Again, I am still in a surreal state. To help create an actual RE game, to be inside of the universe may take another few years to fully sink in. Portraying that legendary character – one I've been playing in games for 21 years – is a sensation I've never felt before. MoCap is a fun, physical and it pushes the imagination. We didn't film in a police station, or an underground laboratory; we had to imagine it was all there. What MoCap brings to games in 2019 is ultra-realism. The reason the immersion level in today's games is almost spiking is because they are able to bring life-like performances to your gaming consoles. And when you factor in modern graphics, it's like you're controlling actual people, not video game avatars.
This isn't an exact remake right? So how sort of special was it for you to be working on a game in this way? This topic can get touchy with some hardcore fans – many of which who consider the 98' version to be the best game in the franchise. The nostalgia level is stuff of legends within the RE fanbase. I think CAPCOM struck a perfect balance between honouring the original while bringing the Remake into 2019. Again, the fact that I had even the smallest influence on a line reading, a character decision, an action or reaction is humbling. With the new content, we were (kind of) re-writing history, but in uncharted waters. A total trip! Finally, it's very important to me that the RE fans understand that I have a HUGE amount of respect to the actors who have portrayed Leon in the past. Their performances are what I grew up on and going in, I knew I had GIANT shoes to fill. I'm just overly happy that the fans have been as receptive and welcoming as they have been. Thank you RE fans!
What was the most rewarding scene for you to work on in Resident Evil 2, and why? Two scenes stood out. The first is the scene in the gunshop with Ada and Kendo. The tone in the room when filming was somber, sobering and gut-wrenching. In the game, it goes even beyond that. What an emotional exchange! And dramatic games like RE2 Remake should be loaded with these! Secondly, Leon's confrontation with Ada at the end was a memorable one to shoot. So much went into it. Lots of collaboration, lots of ideas bouncing around, mostly having to do with the subtext of their complicated relationship and how the scene should play out. It's powerful in the game.
So why do you think people who love video games have related to this game so much? RE has a deep and loyal fan-base. This game is at the forefront of “modern”, it's anxiety inducing, and fun to survive through = everything a RE game should be. It helps that we get to play as classic characters Leon and Claire. The fans have such an affinity for the original and this remake simply has the right mix of new and old, much like the RE 1 HD Remake had. The new aspects only improved upon an already solid foundation – just as it does here!
We’ve read that you like to play complex characters, can you elaborate on why? John McClane in Diehard is a perfect example here. In a (cheesily-awesome) decade of macho one-man army movies, Willis comes in and breaks that mold. He had to be the hero, but got his ass kicked in the process and laid his vulnerabilities on the table. A well-rounded, charismatic character in the perfect situation to exist in. As I mentioned in previous questions, I like characters that have depth. Most humans do and I strive for realism in my performances. I feel I am a very nuanced, yet very physical method actor, and I seek to play characters that are easy to sympathise with.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2019? In addition to a few new MoCap projects (!), I am also a 20-year builder/handyman and I am filming a humanitarian show right now that travels all over the world and helps communities in need with creative solutions. I am one of four builders on the show and I am honoured to be a part of this project – it has a farreaching impact on many lives. I'll share details as soon as I can!
For fans of Shinedown, Bring Me The Horizon, and Papa Roach, TIMELESS brings a refreshing sound to the table. Molded from classic rock and modern pop, TIMELESS combines elements, old and new, to fill the hunger of any active music listener. Their shredding guitars will make you tap into your rock roots, while being hit in the face by some of the catchiest choruses that music has seen today. Their sound derives from the brain of Nathan Eagle, the face and voice of TIMELESS. Starting as a duo, Eagle teamed up with ex-Capture The Crown guitarist Jye Menzies to record their hit cover of ‘Better Now’ by Post Malone. Once released, ‘Better Now’ saw instant success, rising to over 350 thousand views on their music video, and over 150 thousand listens on Spotify. Shortly after, the duo began to experience inner conflict, resulting in Menzies disbanding. With opportunity at grasp, Eagle wasted no time getting back on the horse. Quickly assembling work with some of the industries most accredited producers, he began to work on ‘breathe’.
Over the next few months he worked diligently, setting everything up on his own, to create the best music and video possible. ‘breathe’ was released on all major platforms, February 14th. “The fans keep me going. Honestly, without them, I wouldn’t have a reason to create music.” Eagle exclaims, “I want people to have music they can lean on when it may seem there is no one else,” he continues. You can feel the emotion behind the lyrics of ‘breathe’, so much that anyone will relate. “Love is the most powerful emotion a human being can feel.” Eagle says, “I’ve had my fair share of heartbreak, love, and loss, and being able to portray my feelings with ‘breathe’ feels almost like bliss.” Riding off emotion and the wind at their back, TIMELESS, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. They’ve proven they’re here to stay with their powerful debut single ‘breathe’, and show that sometimes it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be emotional sometimes. It’s okay to be a human being. Show your love. Always speak out.
Rocktimeless.com / Facebook.com/rockTIMELESS
Shadows Like Strangers - CALI This British indie rock band formed in 2018 and didn’t waste any time creating their debut album. The album is inspired by California which gives them an American vibe but they still manage to portray their Britpop sounds at times also. The first track ‘Counterpart’ has a very upbeat indie pop sound. It is catchy with good riffs, slick guitars and relatable lyrics making for a good start and introduction to the band. ‘Love Again’ is even more “mainstream” with a heavy indie pop rock vibe. The vocals are delivered brilliantly and the lyrics are well written and mature. This is one of their stand out songs. ‘A Way Home’ is a more stripped back track which offers something different and keeps the album diverse, it is pleasant and deep showing another side to them. ‘Sad Songs’ shows their more vulnerable side as you would expect and acts as a good balance between their more sombre moments mixed with optimism offering something for everyone. ‘The Art Of Falling Down’ is a the best moment featured on the album for me as it’s the heaviest rock offering, with a strong chorus and memorable riffs, it’s no wonder this was chosen as their lead single to represent this collection. The closing song ‘Dead Happy’ is ambient, honest and encouraging, again it’s relatable and the more downbeat yet hopeful sound works wonderfully. This is a great way to end and a good balance of their sound. There is quite a lot of influences running through this debut release so in the future it would be good to see them hone into their own more unique sound but this is a very upbeat, enjoyable and well composed debut which is well suited for fun road trips. CL
While She Sleeps - So What? ‘So What?’ is the fourth album from British metalcore act While She Sleeps and it is their most ambitious release so far. Opening track and first single ‘Anti-Social’ is alarming and frantic initially and goes on to be dynamic, melodic and hard hitting, making for a great and gripping start, especially with no nonsense lyrics like “I'm not anti-social. I'm anti-bullsh*t”. This is a good introduction to their more “mainstream” sound which is still brutal and packs a punch. There is a lot going on in this track with many twists and turns which is great to see. ‘Inspire’ is a bouncy hopeful anthem with well written lyrics like “To the west, to the west, economy before acceptance. A worth over intelligence, we all can be accepted in hell” and a heavy electronic influence that makes it more noticeable. Title track ‘So What?’ is ambient and powerful with group singing. Another diverse one with fierce vocals and riffs, it’s a good one to lose your mind to. It has a very care free rebellious attitude which is refreshing and a great album representative. ‘The Guilty Party’ opens on serene female vocals and features yet more strong gang singing from an actual choir which is a bit different, but then it jumps in full swing in a fierce and very groovy infectious manner. This will make a great alternative metal party anthem. ‘Haunt Me’ is yet another anthemic and powerful output especially aided by group vocals once again. Last song ‘Gates Of Paradise’ opens on incoherent noises and goes on to be fast, catchy and crushing. It is the longest song featured and ends in a soaring and outstanding way. This is certainly more experimental for the band. This change in direction is (like I said earlier) ambitious, but it really pays off as the album contains massive and awesome heavy moments throughout. It also isn’t too much of a departure from their sound before this as although there is more of an electronica influence and it is more diverse, they still have their metalcore ferocity. CL
Dream Theater - Distance Over Time Progressive metal masters return with their fourteenth album ‘Distance Over Time’ which marks their first release via Inside Out Music label. First lead single ‘Untethered Angel’ opens the album with a hauntingly beautiful intro before massive riffs and instrumentation kick in which continues to stun throughout with their signature intricate sounds, from the lead guitar to keyboard and brilliant vocals from James LaBrie. This is very heavy and epic, making for the perfect start that leaves you eager to hear more… Latest single ‘Paralyzed’ follows and goes straight to the intense hitting riffs with excellent lyrics and vocal delivery yet again and changeable flowing and intelligible instruments with a more electronic dark vibe. This is a must hear moment which will have quite an impact and stay with you. ‘Fall into The Light’ may just be the most headbang worthy tune featured and their most heaviest offering, making it a must for any metal fan. It is dynamic and captures the classic Dream Theater sound with a modern twist, a perfect representation of the album and band. Halfway through we are graced with a beautiful stripped back section which has an effective and powerful impact that only adds to the epic sound. ‘Barstool Warrior’ features a beautiful piano section whereas the likes of ‘Room 137’ in contrast is crushing with brutal riffs and dark vocals. Later on ‘Out Of Reach’ sees another touching and beautiful moment with nice piano and soothing sounds, with the album giving us their dark and light side, giving something for everyone and keeping us guessing. The balance is spot on. The official last song ‘Pale Blue Dot’ is very dramatic with its atmospheric intro aiding the story of the song and it’s very well composed. Depending if you are listening to the version with the bonus track the actual final song is ‘Viper King’ a groove ridden, short and deadly track, that is very fitting. They have really mastered the art of shorter songs without losing the complexity and bite. They set out for it to be one of their most focused and heaviest albums and succeeded and surpassed this on both fronts without impeding on their signature complex sound, they manage to pack so much into every song despite the fact that most songs featured on this release are far shorter than anything you would expect from them. The end result is still epic. This is quite the contender for one of their best albums to date and as a massive Dream Theater fan I am very happy with ‘Distance Over Time’. It ticks all the boxes of what I want to hear from a Dream Theater release whilst continuing to surprise me. CL
Blacklist 9 - Mentally Ill, Legally Sane Blacklist 9 are a Groove metal band from Southern California, formed by drummer Lonnie Silva (Black Sheep, Impelliteri), and his son, Kyle Silva. Intro track ‘Azzip’ is alarming and sounds dysfunctional and emotionally distressing to set the scene… ‘Stand In Line’ tells the story of a rebel who falls for the lies of the establishment and is gripping from the off with crazed unique vocals throughout and an awesome guitar solo. ‘Madness’ features crushing broody guitars, more ferocious brutal vocals and although it has slower paced riffs it is equally as heavy and powerful. This is a fantastic track which is the most diverse and melodic offering featured. Closing out this record, ‘Legally Sane’ is stomping anthemic metal at its best. It is very melodic and has insane guitar sounds and a solo which add extra depth. This is straight up no nonsense groove metal with some cracking charged up tunes that will simply get you riled up. CL
In Flames - I The Mask Swedish melodic metallers return with their thirteenth album and continue to be pioneers for this genre, with their original approach. Opener ‘Voices’ starts off with an ambient progressive intro before crashing melodic riffs and grooves, with the perfect blend of clean and ferocious vocals as always, which makes for a great and gripping start to the album that asserts that the band still pack a punch whilst delivering their characteristic melodies. ‘I, the Mask’ is blistering from the off yet remains hopeful, it has an epic uplifting yet fierce side. It is very catchy yet brutally heavy, proving that the band haven’t gone too soft and hold onto their roots. This song is the perfect embodiment of the band and album, showing their true self at their best and not to mention some slick lead guitar work. One of the first singles released ‘I Am Above’ is fantastic and may be one of their best songs to date. To put it simply, it is certainly one to add to your essential In Flames catalogue. ‘Follow Me’ provides something different with a sombre acoustic opening which is hauntingly beautiful and the slower paced song is well placed and wonderfully executed. '(This Is Our) House' is very powerful with angry group chanting which again shows something a bit different for them in this dynamic track with varied vocals and tones making it a rebellious anthem with lyrics such as “This is our time, we won't back down. No, we won't back down. This is our time, I hear the sound Of a thousand drums” and “Would you join me in the fight. The fight for our lives. Scream out loud: This is our house!“ It is very effective and goes full circle ending in emotive group vocals.
Latest single ‘Burn’ is brilliant with its great guitar work throughout alongside a crunching chorus which will stay with you. ‘Deep Inside’ continues to show In Flames at their most diverse and gives something different with its eerie exotic sound. Closing song ‘Stay With Me’ features nice intricate acoustic guitar work again which you begin to crave as it’s so soothing and nice to listen to yet with a looming darkness. It is masterfully epic which is aided by the fact it is the longest song featured and acts as a powerful metal ballad. It is moving and displays yet more soaring guitars which compliment the vocals and ends the album on a massive high. Number thirteen may be unlucky for some but that’s certainly not the case for In Flames who excel and thrive on this exhilarating release, they embrace their melodic accessibility more so yet still hold on to their brutal side, giving us the best of both. The whole album is brimming with complex melodic epic songs and the band push themselves to show a more diverse and well-rounded piece of art which all can appreciate. It is a release you will want to continue listening to again and again. CL
Millencolin - SOS Swedish Skate-Punk international darlings Millencolin have come back after their 2015 album release with a new output ‘SOS’. Debuting February 15, 2019 the album is quickly showing that a couple of years has done nothing to tarnish the adrenaline that flows through the veins of this fast paced, old school, and intense punk band. The title of the album definetly calls into question the current state of affairs with today’s generation and the need to turn a new leaf. In search for something better in a Trump and Putin political era, the album delves into a number of problems they feel we are facing and is letting it all hang out. Moments like ‘Nothing’, ‘Reach You’, ‘Do You Want War’, and ‘Let it Be’, really showcase Sarcevic’s vocals as it confirms that his English has vastly improved by leaps and bounds since their 2015 release. Besides Sarcevic’s amazing staple raw vocals, Farm and Ohlsson’s superb quick flicking guitar skills really mesh well and create some of the most engaging tracks on this album. ‘Yanny & Laurel’ is probably the most creative as it combines today’s most talked about social experiments with a much more complex situation of individuals not meeting a common ground on certain situations in life. It’s one of the main points of interest on ‘SOS’ that shows that they are able to connect with today’s audience while still making meaningful lyrical impressions at the same time. While some may see this album as being too politically straight forward for their taste, the band has stuck true to one of punk rock’s truest held beliefs: Always speak your mind even if there are those that don’t agree with what you’ve got to say. Despite this, it’s a punk gem with great songs that are sure to get fans of the band and the genre excited for what they will do next. After nine albums, it’s clear to see this band has still got it and can only get better with time. SA
Within Temptation - Resist It’s been two decades since Within Temptation made their debut back in 1996, and it seems that they have constantly found new ways to reinvent themselves with each release. This new experience ‘Resist’ is the most unique metal journeys of all their albums to date. Combining shades of gothic rock, with a dash of new age and metal, the band has created some really effective musical pieces that can resonate with the current climate of today’s society. With its uncanny use of dark melodic undertones and and grandiose use of heavy guitars, stomping drums, and notes of futuristic symphonic sounds interwoven in-between, it creates a theatrical production of rock that really isn’t seen much unless you are a fan of progressive acts such as Coheed and Cambria or Dream Theater. None the less it’s a breath of fresh air to see a band like this still taking the time to make such music for fans who appreciate a layered release. Iconic anthem gems like ‘Endless War’, ‘Supernova’, and ‘Holy Ground’ showcase their impressive oneness as a band vocally and instrumentally as they can be listened to over and over again. Sharon den Adel offers beautiful vocals spearheaded with a stratified use of operatic flavour, combined with compelling nuances of heartfelt and engaging instrumental musicianship from Robert Westerholt, Jeroen Van Deen, Ruud Jolie, and Martijn Spierenburg. The whole album overall bestows a powerful message of protecting the precious freedoms we appreciate in life however big or small if we want to keep living in this world happily. This dynamic, symphonic rock powerhouse of an album is sure to please many fans new and old alike. SA
Foals - Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1 The opening track, ‘Moonlight’, is a very atmospheric moment that’s all about the slow build and it’s masterfully done. This is the kind of song in which you could close your eyes and just lose yourself in the music; I can see this really being used live to good effect. The lead single from this album, ‘Exits’, is probably one of the most wellconstructed tracks I’ve heard in a very long time, and all the while there’s a variety of different sounds going on in the background that add to its uniqueness, as the lyrics talk about a generation in the face of an ever-changing world, how the world is upside down and all the exits are covered. There’s a section towards the end where it’s just a mixture of all the song elements - it’s a cacophony of noise, and yet it works. ‘White Onions’ kicks the tempo up a gear. It reminded me of some of the band’s early work, mainly the ‘Antidotes’ album, and it takes a lot of the spirit of those days and displays it for all to hear. The band are still who they were from those early days, just a lot wiser now from all the experience of their years together. ‘In Degrees’ is where they really hit top gear. It displays what this new version of Foals is capable of, with a beat that’s sure to get your heads nodding along. Although I haven’t really listened to much from these guys in the last few years, even on a first listen ‘In Degrees’ had my full attention. I was caught up in its upbeat rhythms from the guitars and a bassline that keeps everything together while the techno-sounding drums just rounded the whole thing off magnificently. They make a statement of who they are now and where they are going sound-wise in the future.
‘Syrups’ has a hell of a bass sound at its core, which creates a nice atmosphere. Then, halfway through it shifts its tone and pace as the lyrics talk about London and their home county of Oxfordshire, and of how all the kids have left the town. You can really feel the emotion singer Yannis Philippakis shows in his vocals in this one, it’s amazing. ‘On The Luna’, another single, is an effortless catchy pop-rock number that keeps the album moving in all its electronic ways. This reminded me a lot of Foals of old, which was nice to hear, and made a change to the more electronic sound which dominates a lot of this album. The xylophone sounds of ‘Cafe D’Athens’ combined with the drums and the almost haunting sound of Yannis Philippakis’ vocals again create an atmosphere all of its own. It’s really powerful, and once again shows just how far this band has come over the years. They give us one final double hit with the last two songs in ‘Sunday’ and ‘I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me)’, the first being about friendship, which uses a nice change in tempo, starting off slow, relaxing and very reflective. This helps Yannis Philippakis’ vocals sound amazing, and it captures his best moment on this album. With the sudden change in tempo to a more paced style, his vocal is still right there on point. The last track is another piano-heavy one, and the lyrics bring a lot of different images to mind: dead foxes, burning hedges, and how his daughter is asleep in the garden as these things happen around her. Yannis is left trying to put all the pieces together and figure things out. This new incarnation of Foals has made an album that’s most definitely their best work by far both musically as well as lyrically. If there was ever any worry that they might go the same way as some of the bands that were around when the ‘Antidotes’ album came out, this is proof that they are going to be just fine. And keep in mind that this is only part one - part two comes out later this year. LS
Modern Error - Lost In The Noise Metalcore newcomers Modern Error are here with their first EP called ‘Lost in the Noise’ containing six slices of raw emotional music as well as two reworked tracks that won’t fail to connect with the listener. ‘Buried and Blue’ starts things off in a big and powerful way. It hits you full on in the face with the screams of vocalist Zak Pinchin in the verses before going into a clean and clear chorus. Zak mixes up his vocal delivery a fair bit in this opening song but it works well. Drummer Connor Nicholson helps to drive it home even more with his frantic drum work. ‘Funeral Verse’ is next and it goes in a completely different direction with intimate vocals and a calm relaxed sounding melody for a time but before you have a chance to enjoy the change in pace the drums come thundering in and everything bursts into life. The driving pace mixed with Zak’s screaming work very well. The band is showing what they can do when everything clicks together. ‘Blackout Poetry’ keeps up the intense pace and has hooks for days when it comes to the chorus. You can really hear and feel the emotion behind Pinchin’s vocal work here. ‘Cross Me Out’ keeps things moving along in all its moody sounding ways. It builds itself up and up before reaching an almighty finale that will see you banging your fist in the air in no time. ‘Separation Scars’ is for me where things take a slight turn and not for the better. It just dragged a bit too much for my liking and the chorus sadly falls flat. ‘Self Synthetic’ has an atmosphere to it all of its own but it really showcases Zak Pinchin and how well his cleaner vocal work comes through on this EP. The release finishes up in a slightly strange fashion with two reworked tracks ‘Funeral Verse’ and ‘Separation Scars’ while there’s nothing wrong with this it did feel a little odd to me at times. Ultimately, as a whole this EP showcases just how creative and talented they are. If ‘Lost In The Noise’ can be built upon then they are going to have a very bright future. That’s for sure. LS
Frankley Everlong - Till the Dance Do Us Part Hailing from Sweden this band originally started doing just pure pop punk but they got so fed up with the same old formula (take note pop punk bands) that they decided to chuck in some disco elements and shake it up. The result is quite frankly awesome. It’s like Alkaline Trio in Ibiza. The titular track of this album says all you need to know in the first minute. ‘Till the Dance Do Us Part’ opens it with a bang, a combination of pop punk, rock and a little bit of dance thrown in for good measure this is clearly what this band are awesome at. The single of the album ‘Endless Infinity’ requires no build up, we just get thrown straight into the angsty hook. This song focuses on the end of an unhealthy relationship and the lyrics really show it. After the first time you’ve heard it you’ll be singing the catchy chorus of “woah-oh-oh” for the next week. It’s nice to have an album with so much variation considering (like I said earlier) it’s come from a band that started as straight up pop punk. ‘Animatronic’ is probably the heaviest song on the album, it does have the similar pop punk formula but it’s heavier than the standard. It doesn’t stretch into the A Day to Remember territory. It’s an original sound. ‘Broken Heart Surgery’ adopts a grungey approach reminiscent of Breaking Benjamin, all the way down to the vocals which have a lot more emotion and passion. This song is a stand out on this album. It’s a fact of life, birds will fly in the sky, DC will continue to destroy their universe and pop punk bands will sing about love and heartache. ‘Pushed Around by You’ is that song, “I don’t like the feeling when I’m getting pushed around by you” blares over the catchy hook and it just screams angst but it works. ‘September’ almost delves into the realms of indie, the voice adopts an Interpol style and the music is definitely the slowest it has been during the whole album. The different ranges in vocals during this track is fantastic. The song slowly dies down and this brilliant album reaches a wonderful conclusion. RO
Weezer - Black Album Weezer are back again with another new album, their second in three months, following the surprise release of their ‘Teal’ album. ‘Black Album’, is all new Weezer material, but will it hold up against the high standards of their previous work? Let’s find out. We open things with ‘Can’t Knock the Hustle’ - which has a rap-rock subtle nod to one of the band’s biggest hits, ‘Beverly Hills’. It is rather catchy, mainly when it comes to the chorus - a solid opener. ‘Zombie Bastards’ is a silly song at its heart. With a chorus of “Die, die, you zombie bastards/We know what you want/Die, die, you zombie bastards/Keep on” you can’t help but smile at least a little bit, however the song feels a little flat the more it goes on. ‘High as a Kite’ is a piano-heavy ballad that, while vocally is nice, doesn’t really offer much more than keeping the album moving into ‘Living in L.A.’, and then into ‘Piece of Cake’, another piano-led track that just seems to be lacking even a little bit of bite to give the listener something to help get them into the album. Moving into its second half with ‘I’m Just Being Honest’. The song is up-tempo and an enjoyable listen. Using its faster rhythm to good effect, it breathes some life into the album after the previous rather sombre songs. ‘I’m Just Being Honest’ sees frontman Rivers Cuomo talking about listening to bands, and it sums up his feelings rather emphatically, saying “I had to quit, you sound like sh*t”. Added to that, there’s a guitar tone that reminds me of something from the 1990s, which works in its own unique way. ‘Byzantine’ has a programmed backbeat to it, sounding like something you would find on a portable piano, but it also has a relaxed vibe throughout. You could mistake this as having been done by The Beach Boys at least that’s what it made me think of more than once - but nevertheless it gently guides us to the final track on the album, ‘California Snow’. Reminiscent of ‘Zombie Bastards’ at times, ends the album nicely, and also came as a bit of a surprise. They normally end a record on a ballad, but then again there’s not much on this album that’s normal. This is one of the weakest albums in Weezer’s catalogue. Apart from one or two moments, there’s just sadly not enough good material to make it one to remember. LS
New Disorder - Mind Pollution The first track ‘Riot’ has such an intriguing beat for the intro that I was questioning whether this was actually a hip hop album or a DIY rap album and everyone was just lying to me like this was some sort of “gotcha joke” and I was the punchline. But, a blistering growl filled my ears and a soul splitting riff punches in right after that and I realised that I was not, in fact the punchline, but actually the recipient of a gift from God. These guys have mastered the craft of incorporating techno elements into their songs (and specifically intros) which can sometimes be a tricky ground to cover. They have flawlessly made the transition seamless and smooth. ‘No Place For Me’ uses a more tonal intro, and expresses a softer side to the band in contrast to their more explosive norm on the first few tracks like ‘News From Hell’ and the title track ‘Mind Pollution’. I really enjoyed this it as it was a nice break (not that I need it) and a switch up to the album. ‘Mind Pollution’ incorporates a dubstep-like intro, and it follows through to their riffwork - an impressive feat and I was pleasantly surprised with how clean it came out. So far, they have made a new fan in me! For fans of a more techno influenced I Prevail (even more so than their earlier releases) this is definitely for you. LD
Avril Lavigne - Head Above Water The titular first track starts off with an acoustic guitar and Avril's vocals are soft, before growing more powerful as an electric guitar, strings and drums kick in. This song shows off her vocal range, and the violins add a gentle touch to the verses. Unfortunately, the lyrical content of the song is a little bit too cliche. Second track 'Birdie' starts off with a piano, and - by using a metaphor of a bird Avril describes being “trapped” by someone or something. The vocals are impressive, especially on the bridge as the production makes it sound like she is talking through a radio dial. 'Dumb Blonde' featuring Nicki Minaj starts off with a military style drum beat, which continues throughout the song, aided by what sounds like a marching band. The chorus is incredibly catchy as it says to never judge by appearances. Nicki Minaj's verse sounds awfully out of place as the tune changes to a pop like beat that jars the listener before going back to aforementioned military style drum beat.
'Goddess' is a slow guitar ballad that describes how a guy treats a woman with a lot of love and respect, almost as if she a God like being. An interesting chapter on the album. 'Warrior' is the final track and it's a self empowerment anthem that encourages the listener to continue fighting everyday and to rely on their own inner strength. Overall, ‘Head Above Water’ is a good album that has a variety of sounds and successfully shows off Avril Lavigne's vocals. KB
SWMRS - Berkeley's On Fire The first track starts off with a guitar melody that continues in the background as the rest of the vocals kick in. The vocals are almost sung in a spoken word style. The highlight has to be that it is a guitar centred track, however, due to the production, the drums seem to get lost. 'Too Much Coffee' has the drums centre stage, as they lead into an upbeat guitar melody. The vocals are more singing than spoken word this time, and - although the lyrics are a little bit “done before”- the melody is generally fun and will have the listener dancing in no time. 'Lose Lose Lose' is another exciting song that starts off with a heart thumbing instrumental that is destined to create mosh pits, whereas 'April In Houston' is a mid tempo track with simple instrumental and vocals, although it does get a little bit more intense during the chorus. After the first half of the album being very upbeat, it's nice to have a track that is mid tempo in order to have a variety of sound. 'IKEA Date' is a slow tempo output that has soothing guitars and vocals, whereas 'Hellboy' has a heart rattling bass guitar and is a complete contrast to the previous song, as it has heavier vocals, although they never go into unclean territory, therefore not making a casual listener feel put off if they don't like screaming vocals. The final song, 'Steve Got Robbed' starts off with an A Capella intro, before going into a trap style beat, and the drums lead the track nicely along! A unique listen. In conclusion, 'Berkeley's On Fire' is a varied but short album, clocking in at 33 minutes. The heavier moments will satisfy the fans of more intense music whereas the softer songs will surely encourage listeners to check out more of the band's discography. KB
Red Cain - Kindred: Act 1 'Snakebouquet' starts off with radio chatter before launching into a frenzy of guitars and drums. When the vocals come in at the minute and a half mark, they are very powerful, trapping the listener in an enchantment. The drums and guitar are toned down a little from the intro, but at the end of the six minute song, they get their time to shine. 'Midnight Sarabande' featuring Tyler Corbett starts off with the same frenzy of guitars, however, if listeners did not know guest vocalist Tyler Corbett, they would be confused as to who is singing because - either due to production or the vocalists having the same style - it is hard to differentiate between them, making the guest feel a bit wasted. Highlights on this album include a piano introduction on third track, 'Zero', which adds a difference to the two heavy guitar introductions of the previous two songs. A slower guitar song called 'Blood & Gold' and a further guest appearance on 'Juliet', this time from Daniel Louden, and unlike the before mentioned Tyler Corbett guest appearance, this one is easy to tell the two vocalists apart. 'All Is Violence' really catches your attention, as it's distinctly heavier, with almost death metal growls in the background, and even the singing blurs the lines between clean and unclean vocals. The spectacular finale, 'Wing of the Crow' featuring Kobra Paige, launches with hauntingly beautiful guest vocals that sound almost opera like before the guitars and drums go for it. Although it is more of an instrumental song, the combination of the main and guest vocals are beautiful, and could remind people of an actual opera. In conclusion, 'Kindred: Act 1' is a stunning album to listen to, with beautiful vocals and heart pounding instrumental work. KB
The Sunday Sadness - The Sunday Sadness EP A debut album from an up and coming band is always difficult, it’s that fine line between making it, breaking it and completely screwing it. For The Sunday Sadness it’s a massive hit and just the beginning of their journey, it’s bound to be amazing. Their combination of synth wave pop rock and rapping is new and modern and though sometimes it can sound as if it’s from some sort of 70s movie it blends together well. ‘Lost in the Crowd’ has a strange blend of pop and soft rock, which goes into rap halfway through. It’s awesome and separates it from just another wannabe 1975. It’s not particularly heavy but it does get the blood pumping and whets the appetite for the rest of the album. ‘Damn, I Hate It’ instantly holds the style of older style music, you could almost believe the melody is stripped straight from Beverly Hills Cop. This song has all the classic materials for a radio friendly track, catchy chorus, easy lyrics, soft vocals that people can sing along with. In a word it’s quite lovely. I love pieces of instrumental music, some of the best music in the world isn’t accompanied by singing. ‘High Beams’ begins with a slow build that culminates with a big pay off. The intro feels as if you’re on an electric highway in space in some sort of dystopian movie. It’s a really cool piece of music and shows what this band are about and the sound they’re going for. Though a lot of this album is quite mellow there are some parts where rap is introduced. This is particularly prominent in ‘The Wrong Way’. The combination of soft singing combined with the very talented art form makes for a fantastic song. The Sunday Sadness are at the bottom and working their way up, with influences stretching from Bring Me The Horizon to The 1975 I’m sure it’s not the last we’ll be hearing of them and their future is looking extremely bright. RO
Emarosa - Peach Club As we get older or become more enriched in music, it’s funny how our outlook changes. Years ago when I was much younger I would become upset when bands I liked changed their sound, especially a drastic change. However over the years I have learned that in order to grow and succeed sometimes it is needed. Especially when it comes to pop-punk, as that is my favourite genre. Do you really want a 40-45 year old man singing about things he did when he was 18-20? No, it’s not the same and that person isn’t the same person he was then. So when bands do this, it should be welcomed. The latest example of a band changing their sound is Emarosa. ‘Peach Club’ is a long ways from their post hardcore days and I for one welcome this change, as this album is outstanding. As I mentioned above I’m a pop-punk fan, I also love emo, real emo, but I listen to everything, my taste in music is very large. The choruses are so big and that is one of the things that stick out about this album. The arrangements are epic at times. I can see myself dancing in my room on a Friday night while getting ready for a night out on the town. When I listen to this album I can’t help but smile. The first track, ‘Givin’ Up’ wastes no time with getting the party started. And from there it really does not let up at all. And the horns on this track just add to the awesomeness. It’s just an all-around fun moment. And I think that’s part of what they were going for with this release, they just wanted to let loose and capture that feeling. If that’s the case, they succeeded. ‘Don’t Cry’ is one of my favourites on the release. Mainly because it’s something that could fit on a Thirty Seconds to Mars album, that’s how epic sounding it is. It also showcases the vocals of Bradley Walden really well. We get a good taste of his R&B influences. If you are a fan of The 1975 then ‘Cautious’ will be your favourite. It’s another moment that makes you want to move. My favourite song is ‘Get Back Up’, the message here is a good one. The song title says it all and I’m going to leave it there. ‘Hell Of it’ has a really cool arrangement. Once you break it down, it’s a pop song. It could easily be on the radio alongside acts like Halsey, Panic! At The Disco, 5 Seconds of Summer etc. This is the album that is going to propel Emarosa to the next level, especially if they can get some good tours to support this new era. The world is theirs for the taking. So I suggest that you hop on this train now, before it leaves the station. They are about to take over the world. RC
Burnt Tapes - Never Better There may be some stigma with this comparison but when I listen to the opening titular track ‘Never Better’ I hear a very old Brand New. Their energy and passion in this first track is so raw and new, it’s only a two minute ride and has no chorus but it gives the album such a great start. From that point it only gets better, we’re thrown into ‘Drift Champ 16’ a very upbeat post pop punk track that features a catchy chorus. It’s here that the rest of the band are exposed and the vocals almost take a step back, they’re also different to the opening track which shows diversity. This release is a mixed bag, we have very upbeat moments such as the two previously mentioned and ‘Don’t Make me Play Bocelli’ which has a very audience friendly anthem ending. Thrown in with that is also the addictively brilliant ‘Maybe I’m a Method Actor’ a rollercoaster of angst culminating with the line ‘‘If I pulled out my f*cking teeth, would I ever get some sleep’. It hits hard and finishes the song like a pin drop. ‘Forty, Forty-Five’ and ‘Lost in Transit’ offer slower descends into the madness that this band create, they both begin solemnly and slowly and quickly build into mammoth tracks that will blow you away. It’s gritty, it’s real and it’s emotional. A true to themselves British punk band and hopefully with a company like Lockjaw Records on their side they can finally get the exposure they deserve. Watch this space. RO
Set It Off - Midnight ‘Midnight’ is the fourth full-length from the Florida pop-rockers, and it is pop-rock at its best. I know when I think of pop-rock certain things come to mind and those aspects are present on this album. The vocals are outstanding. Cody Carson can sing well. The music is very upbeat. And the choruses are catchy as can be. They will get stuck in your head for days. ‘Killer In The Mirror’ does a superb job of setting the pace for the album. I feel this is important. If the opening track doesn’t grab my attention, I have been known to skip. In today’s times of short attention spans, a good opener is needed to pull the listener in and this does that very well. ‘Different Songs’ is a favourite of mine. This one is hands down a dance moment and it will without a doubt get you moving. You know, those songs that you can’t help but move to, even if it’s just a simple snapping of the fingers and moving your shoulders, this is one of those. Above I mentioned the vocals of Cody Carson, while they standout on every track, if you really want to hear what he is capable of, then look no farther than ‘For You Forever’. He has one of those voices that just pulls you in. ‘Go To Bed Angry’ is brilliant, and it’s mainly due to the vocals of Katie Cecil of Wayfarers. Her vocals mesh so well with Cody’s. If you are going to have a guest vocalist, that is very important. On an album of upbeat fun songs, they had to throw in one slow laid back track, ‘Unopened Windows’ is that and it very well might be one of the best experiences on the album. Again it’s the vocals that do it for me. You know how people sometimes say a person could sing the yellow pages? Well this gives me that thought. The vocals on it are so great and relaxing. Overall this is a very solid album. If you are new to the band, then this is a good start. After this I know I’m going to go back and listen to their back catalogue myself. I’m interested in what their other releases sound like. I now see why they have the fan base that they do. They are a very talented band. RC
Spielbergs - This Is Not The End ‘This Is Not the End’ is the debut album from the Norwegian three piece Spielbergs. And while it took me quite a few listens to get into, this is a really good album. It has elements of post-rock, 80s college rock, and 90s alt-rock all rolled up into one. At times it feels like this is nothing more than a tribute to The Replacements. Which don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that. I’m just saying that their influences are very clear. And I like that. The album starts with the blistering ‘Five on it’. Going back to what I said, it has that clear Replacements sound. The fuzz guitars are present throughout. This will make any fan of post-rock happy. ‘Distant Star’ is the single off the album, and after listening to it a few times I know why. It has VERY addictive chorus, which is going to get stuck in the listener’s head. I also like the ending, it sounds a little like ‘Baba O’Riley’. This really is very much a rock album, which is evident again by ‘We Are All Going to Die’. The guitars are on display, and again it’s the fuzz that grabs your attention. ‘Bad Friend’ is one of those songs that is simple as can be but it works oh so well. It’s just a really fun listen. If there is a track that seems out of place, it’s ‘Sleeper’. It sadly did do just that, it put me to sleep. It took me a few listens to get into this album but when I did, I enjoyed it for what it is. It’s a pretty solid release. If you are a fan of acts like Japandroids, Bob Mould, Beach Slang, then you will really enjoy this. RC
Youth Fountain - Letters To Our Former Selves I’m not one that is huge on social media. I use it for two things, to keep in touch with people and music. About five years ago I met this guy on Facebook in a pop-punk group and we became friends. We kept in touch often, to chat about music and the Boston Red Sox and Bruins. Maybe two years ago he mentioned a two piece pop-punk/emo duo called Bedroom Talk. I checked them out and instantly was a fan. Tyler Zanon and Cody Muraro were on to something. I was not the only one that thought so, as a year later they were signed to Pure Noise and they changed their name to Youth Fountain. Last year after signing to Pure Noise records they released the 5 song EP, ‘Youth Fountain’, which was a sonic introduction for a lot of people. The buzz behind them was insane. They also toured the United States for the first time. I happened to catch a date and they were amazing live. So after building a fan base it was time to head back home to Canada and write a full-length, and that’s just what they did. There are twelve tracks on ‘Letters to Our Former Selves’, five of which made up the aforementioned EP above. The album starts with ‘Helpless’, which at 30 seconds long segues into the title track, overall a great start. The first thing that sticks out are the vocals of Cody Muraro, he sounds a little like Parker Cannon from The Story So Far. Which isn’t a bad thing. It’s something newer fans can latch on to. ‘Rose Coloured Glass’ is one of the five tracks from the EP. When first released on the EP in 2018, the video quickly hit 17k views. Which is insane for a newly signed band. One of the defining aspects of Youth Fountain is at its best right here as it contains the dual vocals of Tyler Zanon and Cody Muraro. At times it brings to mind classic Taking Back Sunday and we know now how magical that sounds. ‘Worried’ sticks out to me, as it was my favourite off the EP. I once again love the vocals, except this time, it’s the screaming of Tyler Zanon. His screams are deadly. And they complement Cody’s vocals so well. The emotion that they emit here is out of this world. ‘Ache’ is the only acoustic part on the album. And I like how it is sort of in the middle of the release, so it serves as a point to relax and chill a bit before heading down the home stretch. The first half was more poppunk, the second half is more emo. It also has more sing-a-longs, which is nice. I like that element of poppunk. It is only March but I believe we already have the best pop-punk album of 2019. It’s going to be hard to top this release. It is everything a pop-punk album should be but it also adds a few other unique elements. This is pop-punk in 2019. Get used to seeing the name Youth Fountain. RC
Matt Finucane - Vanishing Island I think the word “eccentric” does little to actually grasp what this album is all about, I don’t really think that it agrees with me specifically however it is an interesting collective of elements. Finucane makes use of an outlandish mix of electronic and acoustic, and while, like I said, I’m not sure if it is for me personally, there is something to be said for anyone who can manage to blend such a collection of influences into one track and have it come out as a whole comprehensible piece. ‘Looking For A Genius’ was my favourite from this release. I particularly enjoyed the intro here, and the most noteworthy highlight of this whole album is that the vocals are so distinct. They bring about a certainly airy, mystical feel which confirm that Finucane has a set of pipes on him. To wrap up, I think this album is an interesting piece for those looking for something that’s outside of the box and scratches many levels of atmosphere. LD
Holding Absence - Holding Absence Holding Absence have long been touted as one of the next big things in the world of heavy music. Having signed to SharpTone Records after just a few months as a band, their debut full length album has been more than two years in the making. It finally landed recently. Has it been worth the wait? You bet it has. What will most likely grab the listener on first listen is the sheer vocal prowess of frontman Lucas Woodland. Throughout the album, he demonstrates a range of techniques, styles, approaches and volumes, and the power and technical capability of his voice cannot be understated. It is unlikely there will be a better vocal performance on a heavy album all year, and certainly not on a debut album. From the atmospheric intro of the opening ‘Perish’ to the outro of the closing ‘Wilt’, Holding Absence have crafted an album that is throughly captiving from start to finish. The opening run of songs is simply phenomenal. ‘Perish’, ‘Your Love’, ‘Like A Shadow’ and ‘You Are Everything’ are emotional post-hardcore at its absolute finest. The lyrics are hugely relatable, and feel incredibly genuine. When Holding Absence turn it up, the riffs are massive. And as mentioned before, Lucas's voice and range are off the scale. ‘Like A Shadow’ in particular is wall to wall hooks and a fine example that Holding Absence can do things more uptempo just as well as the slower numbers.
Some may find the piano ballad ‘Marigold’ a bit too much of a lull, but even for those where that applies, things quickly pick up again with ‘To Fall Asleep’. Haunting instrumentation in places is once again topped up by a driven, powerful performance from Lucas; It's another highlight in an album where the quality remains so high throughout. ‘Monochrome’ is perhaps the best of an exceptional bunch. All the elements of the Holding Absence sound combine perfectly here, and the chorus is planet sized. Seeing this song live on its own would be an experience, never mind hearing the entire album. The final section of the album still has plenty to offer. ‘Last Of The Evening Light’ has some wonderful synths and pummelling use of drums in places, while the album's shortest track, ‘Wilt’, is again very haunting, but notable for having the saddest aura around it on the record. The final track on ‘Holding Absence’, ‘Wilt’, is another instant classic. It's a slow burner that is very fitting to be closing on an album like this. It starts softly before exploding into a cacophony of drums, riffs and Lucas Woodland's voice, creating a fully immersive sound. It then veers between heavy and moments of quiet, each pause in the onslaught giving more power to the one that follows. It's an incredible powerful end to a phenomenal debut album, one that should see Holding Absence soar into the musical consciousness of a great many people over the coming months. JG
Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts - Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts Matt Mitchell and The Coldhearts were one pleasant, pleasant surprise to my ears. Although my favourite track, ‘Keep Me Safe’ was not the overall norm of this album, the track did an excellent job of expressing their softer side and the raw, tonal nature of Matt Mitchell's vocals. I was almost knocked on my ass with the amount of unadulterated authenticity that comes from this full length album. The way this release is put together makes it seem as if these tracks were hardly touched in post production - they sparkle and gleam with power and hope. ‘Old Enough, & Ugly Enough’ brings in a nostalgic, and a down-home feeling. Although they are noted as a singer-songwriter act, I like that these songs seem to bring in a little more than that. There’s soft rock influences, old school country influences, and vocals so rich you could spread it on butter for breakfast. Here, there’s something for everyone and it’s impossible not to like, the aforementioned ‘Old Enough & Ugly Enough’ is a perfect example of that. ‘Kings & Queens’ showed more of the “norm” on this album - a rolling soft rock tune with uplifting lyrical quality. They hit their objective on the head with a pristine, and wholesome release. Fantastic job! LD
Skinny Lister - The Story Is.. I’ll be the first to say that this album perplexed me, but in a good way. I think. Initially I was turned off by the first track, ‘Second Amendment’ because I found the intro jarring and awkward. As I listened through the album though, I think overall this band have owned their M.O. of jarring, jiggy, upbeat tunes. Some of them are jarring, to me, yes, however I got more into it as I continued on. ‘Diesel Vehicle’ slowed it down into a strangely adult take on a middle school - slow dance ballad. Vocals reminiscent of a tonal folk tale tell a story on every track, and brought me back to my days of being a young child listening to The Beatles with my mom in her old beat up truck. ‘Stop & Breathe’ was by far my favourite track. It was the most quiet of the whole album, and made use of simple vocals (female backing) and acoustic guitar. It just felt right. Despite its slow paced nature and down to earth lyrical qualities, it seemed to be the best fit for me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all the upbeat moments like ‘Any Resemblance to Actual Persons, Living or Dead, Is Purely Coincidental’ which as a side note, was a fantastic choice to end the album. ‘Alister McAllister’ brings in a touch of surf rock n roll, but still delights the ear with their fanfare approach. Overall, despite my initial hesitancy about the album, I am quite pleased with it and I enjoyed the change of pace! LD
Forged In Black - Descent Of The Serpent Heavy metal that comes out of England is always fire. Like, straight from the dragon’s mouth, flaming heat, kind of fire. These guys are certainly no exception to that rule, and this release was nothing less than fantastic. All these tracks fall far above the line that distinguishes the men from the boys, and takes a bold stance with powerful, thunderous vocals, and unmistakable riffwork. Each song drips with substance. Prepare to have your ears melted off. The title track, ‘Descent Of The Serpent’ was definitely a strong choice for the name of the album. It rolls in with a ticking riff driven intro, and then drops into an almost uncanny vocal style. I have a hard time grappling with the fact that vocals so filled out, and so rich can actually come from a person. Unless they’re lying to me, and they’re all perfectly attuned robots that are taking over the scene undercover as human beings. Let me know what you think of this theory. Overall though, I have literally no complaints about these nine tracks (for any of our regular readers, you know I always have a complaint). They are all special in their own way but are unmistakably from Forged In Black - they did an impeccable job with their work on this album. LD
Photos by Nick Karp | http://www.nickkarp.com
It was a tiresome night one evening back in January of 2018 when Tanya and Eddie spoke about forming a new band after coming from previous projects that were seemingly losing steam. She had been attempting to form a band with her close friend John Gribbin for a couple of years now but kept running into the same problem - finding the correct members to help create the artistic vision they had. It all happened coincidentally that we all became available at the same time even though our previous commitments were very lengthy and loyal. It may sound cheesy, but when 3 doors closed, 1 door opened - the stars aligned so to speak. Having been veterans in the metal scene for over 10 years each now, starting a completely new project seemed extremely daunting - but passion always prevails. We all got along and the chemistry was extremely easy going so we could just say "Hey, let’s give it a shot". We booked our first month of rehearsal studio time that month and began writing what would become our first single, ‘The Herd’. After contacting long time videographer Tom Flynn, he agreed to help us shoot our first video for it and we decided to post it and see what kind of reaction we would get. With an overwhelming positive response and demand for more music, we started to become even more confident in what we would help bring to the metal world & so we began writing more tracks for what would become our debut record, ‘Pneuma’ The Concept for the album was to write 1 large piece of music that could be presented as 6 different tracks. We wanted to write a progressive metal/hardcore/whathaveyou record but still be accessible on a song to song basis. The album takes you through a journey of self exploration through experience.
Learning from past troubles, embracing yourself for anew and learning as you go on in life - something all of us go through. Although the album musically & lyrically is chronological, by creating it in a 6 song format, you don't necessarily have to listen from front to back at all times although it was intended that way. There are musical call backs, themes, returning motives, lyrics that intertwine and the like. We worked extremely hard on this to bring something truly enjoyable for a lifetime. With that in mind, we settled on the title, ‘Pneuma’ which describes "The creative force of a person". This is not limited to just artistry but all aspects of life as you continue through its learning process. The record took a few months to create at West Fall Recording Studio in Farmingdale, NY with producers Anthony Lopardo & Ray Marte & features some of our best performances yet! A new music video for our 2nd single ‘Phosphenes’ was released on 3/14/19 and is garnering positive attention! A short documentary will be released detailing the recording process of the album and a release date for ‘Pneuma’ is set for 5/3/19! Extensive touring will follow throughout 2019 - nothing is officially announced at this moment. If you order our record & or share it, or listen to it in anyway, we want to thank you deeply from the bottom of our hearts. It is truly the only way that artists can continue making music and to survive. Thank you so much again, your gratitude is not unnoticed!
Jaret & Kelly - Sittin' In A Tree Rock has a brief history of forming super groups, in more recent years we’ve had Prophets of Rage, Them Crooked Vultures. It’s not entirely uncommon nowadays but whenever it does happen there’s that hint of “ooh, will that work?” Enter Jaret and Kelly, a band so fresh they don’t even have a Wiki yet. ‘Here We Go’ opens up the album with what feels like a fresh take on the pop punk genre although it can be said that some of the lyrics feel a bit reflective of the album idea in general “don’t know what I’m doing, here we go. Okay let’s do this.” Almost a comical fourth wall break but it works. It’s nice to see that the Bowling for Soup frontman is much more than just his pop punk roots, ‘Doin’ Alright’ holds a country-ish rhythm and his voice as well as Kelly’s just goes along perfectly with it. Never judge a book by its cover of being drunk and throwing up I guess. As previously mentioned though when two pop punk people come together there’s bound to be a lot of angsty fast rock tracks. If that is what you’re looking for from this album then you’re certainly in luck but it’s so much more than that. The likes of ‘Something I’m Not’, ‘Yourself Again’ and ‘How Did We Get Here’ do boast those typical genre values and shine through but it’s the surrounding tracks that are the real victors on this album. ‘Rocket Ride’ is a mellow rock ballad that shows that both front people are more than their respective bands, it also resembles the forgotten ‘Pretty. Odd’ era of Panic! At the Disco. ‘That Night’ holds a very 70s vibe but I can’t quite put my finger on why, in every other way it sounds very up to date and modern but there’s something about the under lying guitar that makes me think of disco, fantastic track though. As with a lot of albums now you have to have the sad and soppy love ballad and this comes twice, once in the form of ‘Butterflies’ a lovely piece of music made only better by the stunning vocals from Kelly and Jaret and the second is ‘Let’s Just See How It Goes’, an acoustic track with a lot of heart thrown in. To come from two massive bands and form a supergroup is never an easy task but I think these two might have nailed it. There’s enough of both of their bands and a lot of new to keep this a fresh and interesting experiment. RO
Latitudes - Part Island ‘Part Island’ is the fourth album from the UK progressive metal act Lattiudes and is their first album in their twelve years to feature foregrounding vocals on every track. Opening ‘Underlie’ is a stripped back beautiful and vulnerable offering for the most part but halfway through it bursts to life with full ambient instrumentation and quickly asserts their dynamic and consuming sound. Single ‘Moorland Is The Sea’ is a must hear with its impressive vocals and crushing soaring guitar work, it has an ethereal serene feel as well as exploring dark post metal sounds. It represents the band well. The closing track ‘Past Islands’ is also the longest featured. It opens on delicate acoustic guitar and soft vocals which soon changes as it flows and builds its layers with a haunting dark feel, the sound explored and length make this an epic note to end on with its twists and turns which are expertly crafted and highlights all their best elements in one as they have throughout. This is ambient progressive metal at its best which you can lose yourself in, it is well-crafted and benefits from many listens to fully appreciate all its depth. CL
Jaws - The Ceiling It’s been a long time since Birmingham rock trio Jaws have come to the surface and made some waves, however much like the shark they are thrashing back to dry land. I’m sure they’re sick of references like this but that’s what you get when you give your band such a massive name. Their last big effort was back in 2016 with the massive ‘Simplicity’ and now three years later they have returned for more! Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the indie water (sorry). Upon first glance Jaws appear to be stuck in the golden age of indie, the opening bouncy track ‘Driving at Night’ sounds as if it belongs right at home on an episode of The Inbetweeners and at this point I thought that’s all they were but this album goes deeper than that. ‘Feel’ really brings this album out of its shell and allows us to see that this is a very talented bunch of guys. What I can only describe as a crunchy guitar solo starts ‘Do You Remember?’ a deep resounding crackling sound that boasts a big payoff. Singer Connor’s vocals are slightly different here to go along with the fantastic guitar work. This song also has that classic indie solo before the end of the song. In particular the drums are very polished during this part. ‘Fear’ has almost a Bring Me The Horizon sound to it, obviously new BMTH because I can’t imagine these boys throwing out ‘Diamonds Aren’t Forever’ anytime soon. It’s a very mellow almost trippy element that completely throws the style of the album but it works. The soft drums and distant sounding rhythm works really well with Connor’s soft vocals, again he demonstrates what he can do. In a very strange change of pace ‘Patience’ begins with almost a panflute section, it’s not hard to imagine some sort of gnome or other creature running through an enchanted forest on the way to talk to some magical being, this is interrupted when the once again ranged vocals make an appearance. Titular song ‘The Ceiling’ is a more mellow affair than a lot of the other songs on this album, it seems a strange one to name the album after as for me it doesn’t represent what the album is about. ‘January’ concludes this release with a lovely acoustic piece that quickly turns into an almost futuristic sounding medley of everything mashed into one. If there is one song to sum up ‘The Ceiling’ it would probably be this. Jaws are much more than the poor shark puns I threw out at the beginning of this review. They have the ability to stretch indie to the very edges of the genre and cross the borders into new ones. This is a fantastic piece of work from a great band, I hope this means they’ll be sticking around. RO
Ceremony of Silence – Outis Opening song ‘Invocation Of The Silent Eye’ is instantly brutal, with alarming manic riffs and pounding drums and demonic low growls to accompany, asserting their truly dark side yet it remains melodic with well-crafted rhythms and is entrenched in a hellish atmospheric. ‘Ceremony Of A Thousand Stars’ follows and has an hypnotic riff that carries it throughout and goes on to embrace many twists and turns in manic flurries, keeping it dynamic. ‘Trance Of Void’ strikes heavy and fast with strong technical riffs being fired in quick succession with changing tempos, sweeping devilishly throughout. Offering up something a bit different is the sombre and resonant ‘Upon The Shores Of Death’ with its slower mournful pace and hushed dark whispered vocals with ambient consuming instrumentation surrounding it. Picking up the urgency again is ‘Black Sea Of Drought’ which goes full throttle with crushing drums, alarming riffs and fierce piercing vocals along with changeable effective tempos and rhythms. ‘Arising Of No Man’ slows the pace down a bit again, being more of a drawn out broody number which is equally as powerful and intense. Final song ‘Into The Obscure Light’ goes full guns blazing, packing everything they have got into this final blow, with fast technical instruments and an ambient bleak atmosphere. This is the shortest track but it makes a hell of an impact and lasting impression to cling onto as we end this immersive and intense death metal experience. There is a lot of depth on this impressive debut and it leaves you very hungry to hear more of their crushing atmospheric death metal which is technical, intense, melodic and all consuming. This is how death metal should be. CL
Mono - Nowhere Now Here Celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band, Japan's post-metal / ambient noise masters Mono are like few bands on the planet. For two decades, they have enthralled fans all around the world with their ability to create soundscapes and all encapsulating experiences with their songs and albums, virtually all without vocals, in a way few instrumental acts can. Their latest album, ‘Nowhere Now Here’, is another incredible musical experience. Rarely has a band managed to create something that sounds so truly bleak, and yet beautiful at the same time. The second track on the album, ‘After You Comes the Flood’, is a perfect example of this, giving a sense of desperation with just a few simple repeating notes as the distortion ramps up around it before launching into full gear. The entire song is underpinned by those same repeating bars while the drums, distortion and riffs swirl around them. Rarely has something so simple been so effective in the post-metal / ambient world. The following track, ‘Breathe’, is a rarity in that it features vocals from bassist and keys player Tamaki. It's much slower and calmer in nature than ‘After You Comes the Flood’, giving off the feeling of a mixture of great sadness and being a highly impressive orchestral composition. The use of strings towards the end of the track is particularly sublime. The title track to ‘Nowhere Now Here’ is a ten minute plus opus which passes by in what feels like a handful of seconds.
Continuing through the album, ‘Sorrow’ is another song that deserves considerable attention. The mournful tones ebb and flow throughout, with yet more wonderful stringwork present amongst the instrumentation. The soft keys on ‘Parting’ contrast brilliantly with the other elements present, creating yet another moment that is very emotive. ‘Funeral Song’, as one might imgagine from the name, is another very bleak listen, almost bordering on being a dirge at times, but is the perfect foil for the album closer ‘Vanishing, Vanishing Maybe’. Creating a softer soundscape from the outset, it's a song where you could imagine a character in a movie just slipping away quietly to while this song plays in the background, a fitting end to a truly absorbing album. Mono manage to pack so many different elements to their sound across this album, that genuinely often the only thing that feels appropriate to say is just go and take the time to listen to this release. It's one where new discoveries await with each repeated listen, and will leave a lasting impact. It's hard to imagine any band releasing a better post-metal album than this all year. JG
Parkway Drive - Alexandra Palace - London - 02/02/19 Rock and metal are dead they say. Someone tell that to the ten thousand folks happily trudging and riding their way up the famous hill to London's Alexandra Palace for the biggest headline show of Parkway Drive's career, which was confirmed a sell out a few days before the show. Unfortunately Ally Pally's queuing system prevented me from being present for openers Thy Art Is Murder's full set. What we did see was an ever growing crowd fully engaging with TAIM frontman CJ McMahon and the moshpit already going mental to a barrage of riffs and thunderous drumming. Most in attendance would have no doubt called it a success. A success would be an absolutely absurd understatement to describe the performance of Killswitch Engage. For the best part of an hour fans and band united in a glorious celebration of Killswitch's extensive back catalogue, with songs old and new received equally as thunderously. Jesse Leach was in the form of his life. Guitarist Adam D, perhaps sensing the incredibly special mood in the room, left the usual comedy to an absolute minimum and immersed himself in the experience just as much of the rest of those present. Alongside their comeback show with Jesse at London's Shepherds Bush Empire in 2013, this has to go down as Killswitch Engage's finest moment so far in London. An absolutely phenomenal experience.
Many around us were openly speculating just how Parkway Drive were going to follow what had just been seen. The initial answer would be, to be the only band apart from Rammstein to pull off an entrance involving a torchlit procession through the crowd while pyro blasted from the sound desk. It was an impressive beginning, and the music was soon to match. The power of Parkway Drive in full flow in a live environment simply has to be seen to be fully understood. Tearing through an opening of ‘Wishing Wells’, perhaps the loudest singalong of the whole set with ‘Prey’, and then rewinding the clock back to ‘Carrion’ meant that Winston McCall and friends had all ten thousand people inside Ally Pally in the palm of their hands from the word go. The setlist was, as expected, weighted fairly heavily towards Parkway's two most recent albums ‘Ire’ and ‘Reverence’, which seemed a very popular choice given by the frenzied reaction throughout. There were still old favourites thrown in for those who've been with the band since the early days (’Karma’, ‘Idols and Anchors’), but there were some surprises for the newer material as well. Part way through, a string quartet appeared, literally out of the darkness, to bring an amazing extra dimension to tracks like ‘Writings On The Wall’ and ‘Shadow Boxing’. It made the songs even more powerful, which was quite the statement. One of the quartet also accompanied Winston to the sound desk for a stunning performance of ‘The Colour Of Leaving’, which closed the main part of the set in style. Having been fairly reserved with their customary pyro until this point, Parkway Drive wheeled it out in force for the encore. The entire stage was ablaze for ‘Crushed’, and the combination of pyro, lasers and lights for the obligatory set closing ‘Bottom Feeder’ was a total sensory overload (in the best possible way) alongside one of the best breakdowns in modern metal. On this evidence, Parkway Drive can only go on to even better things and bigger venues. They're headlining Bloodstock Open Air this Summer, and given a couple more years, it could easily be Wembley, The O2 and Download. Time will tell, and we can't wait. JG
As I’ve been playing Kingdom Hearts 3 one quote has become more prominent in my head, it’s from something totally unrelated as well. When discussing Inception in South Park one of the characters says “Just because an idea is overly convoluted and complex doesn’t make it cool” and that is exactly how I feel after playing the latest from Square Enix. A game I’ve waited thirteen years for, unfortunately the wait was not worth the result. When you’ve waited for a game for over a decade there’s bound to be an expectation that you are begging to be fulfilled. Kingdom Hearts is a journey I and many others started back in 2003. Sora, Donald and Goofy travelled to different Disney worlds and met all manner of classic characters including Aladdin, Hercules, Ariel and many more. After delays and set backs now we’re finally able to finish the journey, or so I thought. Sadly what should have been the end to the saga merely builds to another sequel after a complex and quite frankly ludicrous storyline. At one point one of the characters called Axel who used to be called Lea before he lost his memory actually says “I have no idea what’s going on” and I felt his pain. We’re once again thrown back into the fray with the three amigos. Master Yen Sid, the wizard has told Sora he needs the power of waking to enter the dark realm to go and find one of the original keyblade wielders that lived thousands of years ago. At this point it’s like “Let me go and find Disney characters.” So we’re thrust into Olympus, a bigger and more established world has been created for Hercules this time around including going to Mount Olympus and seeing Zeus himself! All the while being battled by Titans, Hades and of course Heartless. From here we bounce from world to world. This game focuses on elements from Pixar/Disney and so we’re taken to Toy Story, Tangled, Monsters Inc and of course the most popular movie of the past ten years Frozen. I’m not a fan of the major hit motion but I have to admit in this game it is truly beauiful, the landscapes are amazing and the way the characters interact with each other is also, amazing. The only thing I did have an issue with was the fact that we had to endure the entire scene of ‘Let it Go’ and ‘Do you want to Build A Snowman’. I get it it’s a big movie with catchy songs but this just felt a bit much. My gripes don’t come from just the storyline though, it feels a bit ridiculous that we’ve waited for 13 years for this game when at least three of the seven worlds weren’t even created when it began development. It almost feels like they were making it but then another successful film would come out so they’d push it back to add it on and this continued for thirteen years. I just feel a bit cheated. Let’s move on to combat, obviously running through the various worlds fighting the Heartless is at the core of this game, you can’t walk a few steps in a world without being accosted by the various enemies. At times it can become tedious especially if you want to just run through after you’ve finished the world. However when it’s needed to defeat enemies it is incredibly fun. In previous games we were confined to hold only one keyblade and this time we can wield three at once! This adds different elements to the combat and makes it unbelievably fun, whether you’re fighting the same old bosses of Heartless or taking on the snow monster from Frozen or the nanobots from Big Hero 6 it just makes the game worth carrying on. Graphically it’s beautiful, it’s easy to see why they spent so many years on this game and where those details went. I can’t remember the last time I played a game and didn’t witness any frame drops or even a hand disappearing into a rock or anything. It is polished. If we take the examples of Port Royal from Pirates of the Caribbean and San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6 those worlds are massive with lots to do including finding hidden Mickey heads around, developing weapons and obviously defeating all the bad guys that you can. While Kingdom Hearts 3 is a fun game and does live up to some promises that were made in the previous games it just feels as if the story for this particular franchise has gone too far. Towards the end it became more of a chore than a pleasure playing the game, I found myself not enjoying it or in fact wanting to know what happened. I wanted to finish it merely because it has the label of Kingdom Hearts. Then we come to the ending and it’s the realisation that it’s not the end, we’re carrying on into further territory but now where does it go? The next game to be released, will it be the live action adaptions of the animated worlds we’ve visited previously, will it just completely go back to worlds from all games and combine them all or will it forget the Disney aspect all together? I guess only time will tell. RO