PROTEUS (from l-r): Tommy Banks (drums), Will Packer (guitar/vocals), Shane Pargeter (vocals), Dan Armstrong (bass), Jake Fenner (guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
After making their debut last year, Gloucestershire metal five-piece Proteus have gained a large UK following with a blend of complex riffery, melodic chrouses and powerful breakdowns, as well as live performances that are both hard-hitting and highly energetic.
At the end of January, the band released a single, ‘Ignite The Pyres’, to a positive response, even going viral in Vietnam.
I caught up with them recently when they were in Derby, playing St Paddy’s Revenge at The Hairy Dog as replacements for local hardcore/beatdown outfit This.Is.Hate, and the quintet had much to say:
How did the band get together?
WILL PACKER (guitar/vocals): We had all been in various different projects, going back a few years. Everybody then took a bit of a break to focus on their personal lives, and then me and Tommy, who I’ve known since we were in our early teens, wanted to start a band again.
I produced a demo, which I then sent over to him and a couple of the other guys. He liked it, and we decided to move forwards from there. Dan was someone we had come across on the interweb, and he came in, then Jake joined about a month later.
Originally, I was the band’s lead vocalist, doing clean vocals and screams, but I soon realised that we needed a fuller sound, and doing the vocals and playing the guitar was going to limit me in what I wanted to do, so we decided to search for an outside vocalist, and that’s when we came across Shane.
He sent a demo over to us, and his vocal delivery was what we wanted, so he came in, we became a full line-up, and we’ve all been inseparable since, so yeah, it’s been good.
SHANE PARGETER (vocals): I joined in April of last year, and I think the rest of the guys had formed that January.
How did the name Proteus come about?
WILL: Aah! I knew you were going to ask this one. The band name has actually got a few different meanings, but the one that we decided to go with, and it was quite a selective process, we always had this sort of nautical theme, tattoos and all that, growing up, and I’ve personally always been heavily interested in mythology, and as you do when you’re starting up a band, we pulled out a whole string of names, and one of them was “Proteus“, which means an old Ancient Greek shape-shifting sea god, and that to us was like, “This is exactly what we want to stick on the front end of the band”, because we thought we could throw all sorts of ideas behind it, and it wouldn’t matter whether we decided to change our sub-genre or sound, as it still sits as this prophetic shape-shifter, so that’s why we chose Proteus.
SHANE: It’s worked out really weird, because my stepdad was in the police force back in the 70’s, and he worked at Camp Proteus (a former police training facility in Nottinghamshire), so that was just so weird.
What are the band’s main musical influences?
WILL: I would say it’s probably Machine Head, Lamb Of God, Trivium, Killswitch Engage, a small amount of Periphery. For me, I would say there was a bit more of a death metal vibein there as well, but those are the most predominant influences, I think.
SHANE: It’s just a huge mix-up for us, to be honest, but at the same time, we have our own unique sound, which is brilliant.
DAN ARMSTRONG (bass): Our influences kind of stem from our own individual musical backgrounds, so each member of the band brings their own style to proceedings.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
WILL: Our songwriting approach is a little different to what I’ve done before.
Predominantly, what we end up doing is rather than just coming up with a riff and basing everything around that, we try to think first how atmospheric and emotional the song will be, then try and put ourselves into that sort of mindset, and hit it from there.
From a simple chorus, it will then expand rapidly and flow neatly into place, so yeah, I would say we try to find the emotion first, then use that to drive the riff.
What inspires the band lyrically?
SHANE: Basically, before writing down any lyrics, I like to hear more of the song, because the sound of it will affect the way I write.
I mainly write the lyrics based on that, and also the way I’m feeling at the time, but luckily enough, over the years, I’ve done a lot of material that I’ve never really used, which I have then been able to bring to this band, and that’s been really useful, especially through having had my own space in practice rooms to write, more so with the music rather than for it.
WILL: Yeah. To add to that, I think a lot of us have really wanted to be more uplifting in terms of our approach, because we don’t want our music to be your stereotypical doom and gloom, which is something you would kind of expect from a metal band.
We try to make sure everything is just that little bit more positive, even when we’re creating something that’s raw-touching, there’s always a release of anger, and a bit of a “lift-me-up” vibe.
SHANE: You will probably see and hear that with our set later, it can get rather dark, but then at the same time, we’ll be bouncing around. However, as long as you enjoy our music, that’s the main thing.
At the end of January, you brought out a single, ‘Ignite The Pyres’. How was the recording process for that?
WILL: The recording process was fantastic. We recorded it with Ben Gaines here in Derby.
SHANE: Was it snowing then?
WILL: Yeah, it did actually, on the last day of recording.
We had this kind of fledgling idea of a track, we actually wrote ‘Ignite The Pyres’ last October, so we developed it and then sent it over to Ben, saying to him, “Hey, we’ve got this idea, and this is what it sounds like at the moment, but we want to make a few tweaks here and there.”
Being the amazing producer that he is, I think he only made about two changes, and they were both very minute, enough to add just that little bit more tension to the track.
As we’re Gloucestershire-based, and Ben is based up here in Derby, we first sent Jake, Dan and Tommy, then me and Shane came up later, and by the time we got here, Dan had already absolutely hammered the bass, laying it down perfectly in time for Jake to jump on and nail the guitar, do my part, and then Tommy hit the drums, which to be fair, was a real smooth transition.
It all managed to be laid down in just a couple of hours, and then, it was on to the vocals, which is where we got all of the texturisation, layers and that, so yeah, the whole process was an easy one, which made us very comfortable. It was a really good experience.
We’re actually going back to Ben to record our debut EP, and that will be in the next couple of months, just purely because the process was just so fantastic.
How has the reaction been to the single so far?
WILL: It’s been really well-received. We’ve had a lot of good feedback, and we’ve also managed to book a lot of shows off the back of that. The single’s success has resulted in a lot of interest, and a rapid rise in both our popularity and fan base.
Our social media reach has doubled since the track came out, and surprisingly for us, it went viral in Vietnam, which was interesting. We all went to sleep one night, and the reach had got to a certain point, then when we woke up the following morning, we saw that it had been pushed through quite heavily over there. We’d had something like 300, 400 likes, so that was really good.
However, there has been, I wouldn’t say negative feedback, but we’ve had some constructive criticism, which, honestly, we want to hear as the band evolves and continues to grow.
The band have already gained a large UK following, having played across the country with the likes of Fathoms and The Uncharted. How has the experience been, for you all, of playing live?
WILL: I mean we have played live for a number of years, both with this band and the other bands we were in before, so it’s something we’re not exactly adverse to.
For me, I remember the first time I played live, I shat myself through the entire thing, but then as I did it more, I realised what a fantastic thing it is, and now, it’s pretty much the number one thing, for me, about being in a band.
DAN: I’m not going to lie, though, playing live in this band is a lot different to what it was for me in the past, having come from a soft rock background. Playing with these guys makes you feel the music a lot more.
SHANE: My first ever live gig was last August, and I fucking loved it. It was something I will always remember, and I can’t wait to see what we’re like live in the future.
I quickly became attached to this band, and I think that’s why we have such a good time live, because all of us are now close friends. We very rarely fall out, we make sure we really enjoy ourselves, and I think that’s what our fans love about us.
Hopefully, it will be the same later today.
You mentioned earlier that you will soon be recording your debut EP. When are you aiming to get that out by?
WILL: At the moment, we have a rough aim for the EP’s release. I would say probably June, July.
SHANE: We do have a lot of material, so I would say towards the end of this summer.
What else has the band got lined up for the rest of 2018?
SHANE: We’re playing Amplified Open Air in Gloucestershire this July, we’ve just played our first local Bloodstock Metal To The Masses heat, where fortunately, we have got through to the local semi-final, which is great.
We’ve also got a lot of gigs coming up, which we’re thankful for, because since last August, we’ve had lots of gigs offered to us, people coming up to us, just like today, and asking if we could fill a vacant slot.
WILL: I think we’re going to be playing a string of shows around Manchester towards the end of this year, a couple of short and weekender tours, which we’re quite excited about, so yeah, it will give us a chance to just enjoy being out on the road.
‘IGNITE THE PYRES’, THE LATEST SINGLE FROM PROTEUS, IS NOW AVAILABLE TO STREAM, DOWNLOAD OR PURCHASE. INFO ON WHERE YOU CAN DO THAT CAN BE FOUND BELOW:
FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: