HOLDING OUT

Holding Out band photo

HOLDING OUT (from l-r): Jason Toward (guitar/vocals), Tomm Money (bass/vocals), Ellis Paul (vocals/guitar), Ryan Hubbard (former drummer)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTO by NICO DRYSDALE

Since forming in 2016, Holding Out, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, have evolved from being an melodic acoustic act to an outfit armed with a sound that mixes in different elements from the genres of alternative rock and punk, allowing for music that is much darker and heavier, but retaining some melody.

With this, the band are currently garnering a devoted following in their home city, having played several sold-out headline gigs, as well as supporting the likes of Tiny Moving Parts and Muncie Girls.

Despite drummer Ryan Hubbard recently deciding to depart, the three who remain are still determined to keep Holding Out going, having earlier this month unveiled their debut EP, ‘FED.UP’, and I spoke to frontman Ellis Paul about all this, and more.

How did the band get together?

Our former drummer and I used to jam together in my garage, and we wrote what would become Holding Out’s first songs. We met Jason through Facebook, and went through several bassists before we met Tomm.

How did the name Holding Out come about? 

Me and my friends used to get drunk and watch the Shrek movies together, and I think the name stemmed from the ending scene of Shrek 2.

You started out as an acoustic act. What made you switch to the alternative rock/punk sound you have now? 

Having more members join us. Once more people jumped on board, we became something a bit heavier and more well-rounded, although, we may be temporarily revisiting our old style, due to the recent departure of a key band member.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

I write lyrics in my own time, away from the band. Lyric writing is a personal experience for me, and I can’t do it in a group environment. The music is mainly written through jam sessions, or by me and Tomm experimenting with weird sounds together.

What inspires the band lyrically? 

Lyrically, my focus is things that affect me in day-to-day life, mental health, relationships, etc. My lyrics often delve into more political and social issues, depending on what I’m writing about.

Recently, you unveiled your debut EP, ‘FED.UP’. How was the recording process for that?

Writing was as standard. We’d hang out in my garage and just jam until we’d come up with something we felt was impactful enough to record. We then hung out in a back room of a church with our buddy Joe, who recorded and produced it all.

The recording process is always a laid-back experience for us.

And for those who have yet to listen to the EP, what can they expect from it?

Surprises. There’s a huge variety of styles and influences we’ve thrown into the mix, which I really think people will love. We’ve experimented hugely, and I think that’s really benefited our sound.

The band have played several sold-out headline shows in their home city, and have also supported the likes of Tiny Moving Parts and Muncie Girls. How were they as experiences?

Our headline shows are always a party, and there’s always a really strong sense of community, which I believe music is all about. People sing our songs with us, members of different support acts get up and sing each other’s songs together, it’s just really wholesome.

Supporting Tiny Moving Parts was awesome. They were the biggest band we’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a stage with, and they’re such down-to-earth, welcoming guys.

And how is it overall, for you all, performing live?

Performing always feels like an out-of-body experience for myself. I have this energy and carelessness, which I lack in day-to-day life. It’s a therapeutic experience where I can really let off steam and not care about how I look, as everyone is there to just enjoy the music.

I can’t speak for the other guys, but I would think, for them, it’s probably something less pretentious.

Now the EP has been released, what are your plans now?

Well, recently, our drummer, and one of our founding members, has parted ways with us, which has put our plans on hold a bit. However, we’re trying to get back on our feet by planning some special acoustic shows, and really venturing into new styles with our music.

And finally, what is your long-term aim?

There really isn’t one, as we’re just here to make music, and to make friends. We don’t care about making a certain amount of money, or playing to a certain amount of people, as we’re here to do what we love, and to pour our passion into creating something beautiful that we can all be proud of.

Holding Out EP Cover

‘FED.UP’, THE DEBUT EP FROM HOLDING OUT, IS AVAILABLE NOW.

FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

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MELISSA VANFLEET

Melissa VanFleet photo

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Hailing from the American city of Philadelphia, Melissa VanFleet is a person of multiple talents.

In addition to being a guitarist, pianist, and a trained dancer, VanFleet also specialises in crafting atmospheric alternative metal songs which naturally gravitate lyrically towards dark themes and topics, led by an emotionally intense vocal delivery, which has led to favourable comparisons to the likes of Adele, Alanis Morissette, and Amy Lee of Evanescence.

Having recently brought out a new album, entitled ‘Ode To The Dark’, which was produced by the team behind Lacuna Coil’s sublime 2016 offering, ‘Delirium’, and saw her collaborate with Doug Blair, lead guitarist of legendary Los Angeles metal collective W.A.S.P., and has so far garnered much critical acclaim, Melissa chatted to me, frankly and in-depth, about that, her journey up to now, as well as a little of what she has planned for the forthcoming year.

What was the first musical experience that you can recall?

Every memory I have from my childhood was accompanied by some sort of music, and my favourite activity as a two-year old was standing on a tiny makeshift stage in front of the TV, singing along with Alice Cooper and Lita Ford into a toy microphone, and I can vividly remember pretending that I was them performing on stage.

Are your parents musical at all?

My dad played piano and trombone, but most importantly, they both instilled in me a deep connection to music by surrounding me by all different types constantly.

The most prevalent genre was heavy metal, and some of my earliest memories involve my dad rocking me to sleep to Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Shot In The Dark’, or teaching me names of musicians in his favourite bands.

My mom has an amazing ear, and she also amazes me with her knowledge of lyrics.

As a child, you wrote poetry and lyrics to help deal with the complications of having a parent with a chronic illness. I can imagine that was a rather tough experience for you to have to go through growing up. 

It definitely was, and continues to be challenging, but I believe it has made me a stronger person. I have always strived for optimism, and writing helped me to stay positive.

As I got older, I started playing instruments, and therefore, I could finally put melodies to the lyrics I was writing.

When was the moment you realised that you wanted to pursue a career as a musician?

My first studio recording was at age 12, and I knew then that I wanted to be a vocalist and musician. I was actually accepted into several schools to study dance, but decided at the last minute to focus on my music instead.

What are your main musical influences?

I have always been drawn to bands with powerful and unique vocalists. I remember watching a Ronnie James Dio concert videotape with my dad when I was in the fourth grade, and thinking I wanted to be up on a stage like that some day.

He had a huge dragon prop, and captivated the audience with his unbelievable vocals and performance.

Around the same time, I discovered Alanis Morissette, and I was immediately empowered by how she was so unapologetically herself in her music, and I am also obsessed with darker classical music, especially ‘Swan Lake’ by Tchaikovsky.

Working with Marco Coti-Zelati and the team behind Lacuna Coil’s latest release ‘Delirium’ has been very influential to the music I’ve been making, as well. I listen to so many different types of music, and lately I’ve been listening to witch house and dark electronic, because it has such a definitive mood, and is perfect to play in the background.

You are also a trained dancer, in all styles. What attracted you to that?

I began dancing when I was three years old. My mom found a local studio, because I was dancing and singing around the house, and she thought I would pick it up easily.

I am so grateful for my dance training, as it has taught me discipline, which in turn,  is an integral part of having a career as an independent musician.

And do you still dance professionally, in addition to your musical career?

I teach master classes in dance, as well as exploratory classes for young children in every style.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

My songs usually begin with a chord progression or a melody idea, interlaced with abstract lyrics and thoughts, and it eventually develops into its own entity.

Melodically, I prefer to write on piano, as I find it more emotive and powerful for my writing style. When I have the structure of the song finished, I record a demo to get my ideas down, and then listen to it a week later to see if I really like it, and decide if it might have the potential to be as strong as some of my better songs.

And in regards to lyrics, you tend to naturally gravitate towards dark themes. Why is that?

The dark subject matter correlates with the melodies I come up with, and consequently, the lyrics and music feel cohesive.

I tend to write from a biographical standpoint, and typically research an idea of something that interests me to find out more information about it, and then write the lyrics as if I was the person experiencing the topic.

I have obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety, as well, and I’ve learned over time that it is cathartic to channel that darkness through my music.

In 2012, you recorded a piano cover of legendary Los Angeles metal outfit W.A.S.P.’s 1984 ballad, ‘Sleeping (In The Fire)’, for your father’s birthday. What made you decide to do that specific track?

It is one of my dad’s favourite songs. I recorded it in an hour, and never intended for anyone to hear it other than him, but he convinced me to put it on YouTube, so others could hear it.

You then subsequently uploaded that onto YouTube, where it got much positive feedback, most notably from members of W.A.S.P. themselves, past and present. Was that something you were rather taken aback by initially?

I was definitely not expecting it! After the W.A.S.P. cover, I recorded a Black Sabbath song, and that helped me to realise that the response from the other video wasn’t only a one-time occurrence.

I began to focus my attention on more metal covers, and released an album called ‘Metal Lullabies’ in 2015, with piano versions of some of my favourite metal songs, and acoustic original songs, as well.

That year, after bringing out ‘Metal Lullabies’, you were invited to perform on the Wacken Full Metal Cruise, alongside the likes of Wolfsbane and former Iron Maiden frontman Blaze Bayley, and Swedish heavy metallers Hammerfall. How was that as an experience?

It was so much fun. The crowd energy was unbelievable. Having conversations with the other bands and artists, as well as the fans aboard the ship, was an experience that I’ll never forget.

You’ve just brought out a new album, ‘Ode To The Dark’, which you recorded with the team behind Lacuna Coil’s 2016 album, ‘Delirium’. How did that come about?

I have been a fan of Lacuna Coil for over 15 years, and after listening to ‘Delirium’, produced by Marco Coti-Zelati, I couldn’t believe how the arrangements were exactly what I heard in my mind with the new collection of songs I was writing.

I was very fortunate to work with the entire team behind that album, including Marco Barusso, Dario Valentini, and Marco D’Agostino.

And during the recording process for the album, you collaborated with W.A.S.P’s lead guitarist, Doug Blair. That must have been quite an experience for you.

Doug is an insanely talented musician with such intense emotion behind his guitar playing, and it is always an honour to work with him.

And for those who have yet to listen to ‘Ode To The Dark’, how does it differ to ‘Metal Lullabies’?

‘Metal Lullabies’ was an acoustic album of metal covers and original songs. I was strictly an acoustic artist for a long time, and it was solely my piano and myself from the writing process to performing.

‘Ode To The Dark’ builds off of the same organic writing style, but incorporates heavy instrumentation, as well as atmospheric and gothic elements, however, despite the fuller sound of my new music, I’ll never lose that raw foundation, because my approach to songwriting has not changed.

You hail from the city of Philadelphia. How is the music scene there currently?

Philadelphia is the epitome of an arts-driven community, and it is inspired to be surrounded by such individuality is inspiring.

What are your initial plans for 2019?

Several new musical collaborations are going to be released in the winter. I am also looking to continue writing new material, and moving forward with touring and live show ideas.

And finally, what advice would you give to any bands/artists who are currently trying to break through?

I would say be true to yourself, not only in your art, but also in your career decisions. I know it might sound cliché, but it is so important. I would suggest, as well, to go with your initial instincts when you meet someone that wants to be part of your team.

Lastly, I’ve learned that no-one will ever care as much about your career as you do, so it is absolutely vital that you are content and confident with the music you are releasing.

Melissa VanFleet Album Cover

‘ODE TO THE DARK’, THE LATEST ALBUM FROM MELISSA VANFLEET, IS AVAILABLE NOW.

FURTHER INFO ON MELISSA CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

 

 

VULGORE

Vulgore band photo

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Vulgore are a five-piece from Stoke-on-Trent, comprising of vocalist Ian Bennett, lead guitarist David Jones, rhythm guitarist Andy Lovatt, bassist Sam Williams, and drummer Hayden Ball.

Influenced by such bands as Black Sabbath, Lamb Of God, and Gojira, the outfit play a loud, brash heavy metal sound, laden with grooves and melodies, and since they unveiled their debut EP, ‘Bliss’, earlier this year, the collective have risen rapidly, having gained a growing devoted following, as well as performing a set at this summer’s Bloodstock festival.

Vulgore told me more about all of this prior to a recent set supporting American black metallers Abigail Williams in their home city.

How did the band get together?

DAVID JONES (lead guitar): I got bored of not being in a band after a few years, so I decided to set one up, and I started looking around for other members. I found Hayden first, as we had been in a band together before, then Sam came in, then Andy joined, and finally, Ian.

We all immediately gelled, and it went from there. We’ve now been going for a year-and-a-half.

How did the name Vulgore come about?

DAVID: To be honest, it was just a random name that came to us, and we all liked the sound of it.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

DAVID: Really, we just throw stuff around, see what works best, and we just work from there.

What inspires the band lyrically?

DAVID: What goes on in everyone’s heads. It depends, really, for example, if we do a faster-paced song, the lyrics tend to be darker.

SAM WILLIAMS (bass): Mentally, we’re all quite similar.

ANDY LOVATT (rhythm guitar): Yeah, we all have a mental age of around 12!

(The band all laugh)

IAN BENNETT (vocals): I would write lyrics more often, but I think I would be thrown into prison if I did!

(The band all laugh)

Earlier this year, you brought out your debut EP, ‘Bliss’. How was the reaction to that?

SAM: The reaction was decent, it got some pretty good reviews, but having played a lot of gigs since then, including a set at Bloodstock, I think it’s now starting to get a lot more attention.

IAN: Yeah, the more people we play to, the more who will listen to it.

The band entered their local Metal To The Masses, which they won. That must have been a good feeling for you all.

SAM: It was strange, because we genuinely had no idea, as the first heat of that was actually the first gig we had ever played as Vulgore, and we won that, and got through to the final.

DAVID: We were genuinely surprised, more so when we actually won the final. It was unreal.

IAN: We were fortunate, though, because it was the first time that Metal To The Masses had been held in Stoke-on-Trent, therefore, there weren’t as many heats as there could have been, but that’s not to take away the fact that there were some really good bands who were also in the competition.

And the prize for winning Metal To The Masses was a set at this year’s Bloodstock festival. How was that as an experience?

SAM: To be honest, until we walked out onto the stage at Bloodstock, none of it felt real.

IAN: It only really hit us when we saw a sea of people watching us come on. It was just crazy.

DAVID: The weather was on our side that day, as well, as it was raining, and as the stage we were playing on was in a tent, loads of people were coming in.

SAM: It was great to be representing Stoke-on-Trent there, as well.

Also, the band have supported the likes of Infernal Conflict and Proteus, and you’re playing with Abigail Williams this evening. How is it, for you all, performing live?

DAVID: We love it, as there’s literally nothing better. We’ve got to a point now where we kind of base our lives around our live sets, which sounds crazy, but it’s worth it.

2019 is just around the corner. What are your initial plans?

SAM: We’ve already got quite a lot planned for next year, we’re going to get some new material out, and we’re also going to play as much as we possibly can, to as many places.

DAVID: We’ve also got our second EP in the pipeline.

And finally, what is the band’s long-term aim?

SAM: Our long-term aim is to dominate the world!

(The band all laugh)

To be honest, we just want to make this our full-time career.

DAVID: And if we manage to play with some really monstrous bands, then that would be a dream come true for all of us.

SAM: Also, it would be great to use those as opportunities to really big up the metal scene in Stoke-on-Trent.

Vulgore EP Cover

‘BLISS’, THE DEBUT EP FROM VULGORE, IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND THE BAND’S SECOND EP WILL BE RELEASED AT SOME POINT NEXT YEAR.

VULGORE WILL ALSO BE HEADLINING THE SUGARMILL, IN THEIR HOME CITY, ON JANUARY 19, MORE DETAILS OF WHICH CAN BE FOUND BELOW:

Vulgore gig poster

FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THEIR FACEBOOK AND SOUNDCLOUD PAGES.

 

TIDES OF RUIN

Tides Of Ruin band photo

TIDES OF RUIN (from l-r): Dom Birkin (bass), “Lankie McTall” (vocals/guitar), Dan Smallwood (guitar/vocals), Leighton Reed (drums)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

From Stoke-on-Trent, four-piece Tides Of Ruin have their sights firmly set on domination of the metal world with a unique metalcore sound.

Before that, though, the band’s main aim is to get their debut EP recorded and released, and I spoke to them about that, and more, prior to the quartet’s recent set supporting American black metal juggernauts Abigail Williams in their home city.

How did the band get together?

DAN SMALLWOOD (guitar/vocals): We rose from the ashes of a previous band, Behead The Bride, and we’ve had a few line-up changes since we formed, but our current line-up is the most stable one we’ve had.

How did the name Tides Of Ruin come about?

DAN: Well, it came out of two names we had initially seriously considered. Lankie wanted the band to be called Throes Of Ruin, whereas I wanted us to be called The Conflicting Tides, so we decided to take parts of both names, and put them together.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

DAN: Originally, I just brought songs to the table, but I think, as a band, you need everyone to bring some of their own input, so now, we all bring ideas to our practice sessions, which we will then jam out.

DOM BIRKIN (bass): Everyone sort of brings their own key things to the songwriting process, for example, Dan and Lankie will be thinking of guitar riffs, whereas obviously for me, as a bassist, I will be thinking more of structures, like “Shall we slow things down, or shall we speed things up?“, and stuff like that.

What inspires the band lyrically?

DAN: A lot of things, really.

DOM: Some songs have a political edge to them, actually, one of our songs, ‘Iceni’, is about the tribe of Boudica, so that’s historical.

DAN: Yeah, the idea for that came from a comic that Lankie had drawn on the subject.

DOM: Another one of our songs deals with mental health.

DAN: It’s kind of the stuff that we are all passionate about.

“LANKIE McTALL” (vocals/guitar): Another song we’ve done is about FGM, female genital mutilation, which is a really fucked-up concept, and happens in countries all around the world.

DAN: It’s something we all feel very strongly about.

Your main aim is to get your debut EP recorded and released. How far are you off achieving that at the moment?

DOM: We’ve been saying we’re going to get that out for the past two years!

DAN: It will come out eventually.

DOM: We’re aiming to get it out at some point next year, it’s just a case of time and money.

DAN: Our main aim, in addition to that, is to make sure that we don’t run out of things to do before we do get it out.

DOM: We’re definitely more of a gigging band, and obviously, you have bands who get stuff out every year or two, but we prefer to just focus on the gigging.

DAN: We do actually have some stuff recorded, some of which was taken from our live sets, but I suppose you could call ‘Iceni’ a single, as we recorded that earlier this year, and that’s something of ours that you can listen to at the moment, but you really do have to see us to get the full experience.

DOM: Yeah, that’s where it lies.

How is the experience, for you all, of playing live?

DOM: The best thing about being in a band, by far.

DAN: On stage, you can be, not necessarily somebody that you’re not, but you can afford to be more extravagant.

DOM: The day after a gig, though, is always the fucking worst, because your neck is absolutely killing you.

DAN: Too much headbanging, I reckon.

And finally, what is the band’s long-term aim?

DOM: I don’t think we’ve actually got that far, to be honest.

DAN: To get the EP recorded!

Tides Of Ruin Single Cover

‘ICENI’, THE LATEST SINGLE FROM TIDES OF RUIN, IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND THE BAND’S DEBUT EP WILL BE RELEASED AT SOME POINT IN 2019.

FURTHER INFO ON TIDES OF RUIN CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

SOUNDCLOUD

BREAK ME DOWN

Break Me Down band photo

BREAK ME DOWN (from l-r): Laerte Ungaro (guitar), Giuseppe “LoChef” Greco (bass), Faith Blurry (vocals), Fabio Benedan (drums), Morris Steel (guitar)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Mainly influenced by outfits such as Alter Bridge, Halestorm, and The Pretty Reckless, Italian five-piece Break Me Down take pride in producing an energetic, powerfully emotional mix of hard rock and heavy metal, and with this, the band have already started to make quite a name for themselves in their home country, having unveiled their debut EP, ‘Resilience’, as well as performing live sets alongside highly-regarded collectives such as Lacuna Coil and Crazy Town.

The rapidly-rising quintet recently spoke to me about all this, their latest single, ‘Trust’, and what they already have lined up for the new year.

How did the band form?

LAERTE UNGARO (guitar): After my old band broke up, I decided to take a break from music, but a couple of years later, I realised that I missed the stage, so, with my old drummer and bass player, we formed a new band.

We started looking for a new singer, and while we were auditioning, we decided to grab a beer, so we went to a nearby rock pub, where Faith happened to be performing, and after the show, I asked her if she could be interested in our project…she answered: “Let’s try!

Also, since we also needed a second guitar player, Morris, her guitarist at the time, joined the band.

After a few months, we lost our original drummer, because he wanted to play other genres, but we eventually found our fifth element: Fabio, and that is pretty much how our story began…

How did the name Break Me Down come about?

FAITH BLURRY (vocals): In my opinion, finding a name for a band is the hardest thing…because it has to represent the genre, the thoughts, the group style, all in one word or a few.

Some journalists wrote that our guitars sounded just like Alter Bridge’s, and there is the fact that ‘Break Me Down’ is the title of one of their songs, but that wasn’t intentional. It’s true that we find inspiration in their style, but we chose this name for a different reason.

We were thinking about the meaning of our songs, and what message we wanted to send…so Laerte suggested that the name had to be a provocation, not to surrender to the difficulties of life, as in “You can try to break me down, but I’m still here!!!

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

MORRIS STEEL (guitar): Except for Fabio, we all write the songs, and everyone brings a different skill: Faith is the most romantic, ballads are her specialities, and everything she writes can touch your heart!

LoChef is a genius, as he always comes up and says: “Hey, I did a song! Listen to this!”, and from that, you can write other five songs!

Laerte’s approach is different, he writes very heavy metal songs, but in particular, he pay attention to the lyrics…he always says the message is important.

My style, personally, is complicated. I write every type of song, because I put into it everything that comes from my life experiences.

What inspires the band lyrically?

LAERTE: I’d like to say everything! Everything can be a song! When we formed the band, our lyrics were based on fighting against an unfair life that tries its best to break you down…but now, we want to tell you about a life that is simple and ordinary, but also rather complicated, for example, our song, named ‘OCD’, talks about love, but through the eyes of a guy with obsessive-compulsive disorder…The chorus says: “How can it be a mistake if I don’t have to wash my hands after I touched your skin?

Now, to a person without OCD, this sounds stupid or crazy…but to a person with it,  this means love.

Back in January, you brought out your debut EP, ‘Resilience’. How was the recording process for that?

FAITH: Complicated! It was the very first time that we had all worked together in a studio, and it was a funny experience, as we laughed a lot, but it was also exhausting, because we went to record ‘Resilience’ in the every evening after a day of work, and the only thing that was keeping us awake was to see the result….and also, the coffee.

And how was the reaction to the release?

GIUSEPPE “LoCHEF” GRECO (bass): Slow. We were a brand new band, and nobody knew us. When we did the first gig, we played in front of our friends, but gradually, show after show, many people started to follow us every time we performed.

‘Resilience’ was the key to spread our music to the world.

The band have performed alongside the likes of Lacuna Coil and Crazy Town. How were they as experiences?

FABIO BENEDAN (drums): AMAZING! Simply amazing! We were so lucky! Actually, opening for Crazy Town was our first show together as a band, and it was awesome, and after the show, “Shifty” (Seth Binzer, the band’s lead vocalist) came backstage, and he said to us that he thought our performance had been great! We couldn’t believe it!

After that, we decided to enter a contest, the winner of which had the possibility to open for Lacuna Coil at the MIC Rock Festival, and we won!

We travelled for 15 hours for play a 20-minute set, but they were 20 minutes of fire, and the guys from Lacuna Coil afterwards gave us the opportunity to open another of their concerts in Reggio Emilia…I think this will remain my, as well as the band’s, best experience ever!

And how is it overall, for you all, playing live?

MORRIS: Playing live is everything! We work hard to build a band in every aspect of a modern concept of how a band is gonna be…I mean: social network, nice pictures, social media, all stuff like these!

We are producers, composers, songwriters, but our biggest satisfaction is playing our music in front of the people that love what we do as we do!

And finally, what are the band’s initial plans for 2019?

FAITH: We recently released a video of a live single, ‘Trust’, which is a tribute to the incredible summer we had playing all around Italy.

The next step now is come out with our first full-length record! We are working hard at the moment to write new songs, and we hope to go back into the studio early next year, and when the album comes out, we hope to do a little European tour, so I think 2019 will be very demanding, but worth it in the end.

‘TRUST’, THE NEW SINGLE FROM BREAK ME DOWN, IS AVAILABLE NOW.

FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

 

 

 

 

OF OUR DESIGN

Of Our Design band photo

OF OUR DESIGN (from l-r): Haydn Rivers (guitar), Sid Wright (drums), Alex Shand (vocals), Ray Hagland (bass), George Ranger (guitar/vocals)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Having been formed by two childhood friends from Essex, Of Our Design are a five-piece who specialise in a metalcore sound that is dynamic yet also aggressive, and includes intricate guitar riffs and concept-driven lyrics at its core.

With their second offering, ‘Utopia’, having been released recently, one of the quintet’s founding members, vocalist Alex Shand, spoke to me, in-depth, about the inner workings of the band, the journey that they have been on up to now, and more.

How did the band form?

Myself and George have known each other for nearly 15 years, and we started writing music together over eight years ago.

After several attempts at making bands with other friends, we decided eventually to try again at creating our own project, which led to the founding of this band, based on exploring some musical ideas we felt we hadn’t heard in other music up until that point.

How did the name Of Our Design come about?

In essence, it was just the one we chose out of many that we’d at the time, come up with and put into a pool of ideas. We were looking for something that we thought sounded different, was cool, and had some sort of meaning behind it.

We had initially passed over the name, thinking that it wasn’t quite what we were looking for, but after going through what was probably about 50 different ideas, we decided to re-evaluate some of them and this is the one we chose.

The intention behind the name is that because the name itself can be used to finish a variety of phrases which leaves the name open to interpretation. Anything can be “of our design“, and it captures the essence of freedom and choice and inspiration that we wanted to found the band around.

What are the band’s main musical influences?

Some of the staples that got us into the genre and to start writing music would be bands like Parkway Drive, Killswitch Engage, August Burns Red, and Bleeding Through, and some others that I know the band as a whole enjoy are Periphery, Bring Me The Horizon, Architects, and While She Sleeps.

As always, though, there are too many influences to name, and everything from artists we loved growing up to things we hear across genres can find ways to inspire us.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

The core unit of the band started with George writing the guitar parts, after which I would help with arrangement, and then write vocals, however, that has bled together over the years with myself helping with some more guitar work, and George contributing with some lyrical concepts.

On the whole, we keep it simple and how we know to do it. He will have the majority of the ideas instrumentally, I will have the majority lyrically, and then we tend to write the sung melodies together more, and I will tend to produce the songs more with the synths and arrangement.

What inspires the band lyrically?

As far as ‘Utopia’ (the band’s recently-released EP) is concerned, it’s really centered around similar concepts that have interested me for years, and freedom, optimism, responsibility, and choice are some of the building blocks that have made ‘Utopia’ what it is.

I’ve always wanted to put a message into the music that is worthwhile and valuable to people, as they are the lessons I’ve learned over the years as I’ve tried to grapple with what it means to be an individual and how I should choose to live my life and decide what is important in that.

I feel like everyone has tough times in life, and have to find their way of overcoming them, and this was designed as a distilled version of the advice I would give myself if I had to go back in time, just put into many metaphors.

On the subject of ‘Utopia’, how was the recording process for that?

Long, exhausting and repetitive. The recording process itself is one that only bears the fruits of our labour at the very end of the process. We don’t do ourselves many favours since our production tools are limited, however, we home-recorded everything, and that involves an enormous amount of self-scrutiny, which often leads to a lot of pressure.

Being the quickest and most experienced with it due to the years of recording George play guitar, I am the one in the hot seat who is cutting the takes and recording everything dry, which is to say, with no guitar tone or real sound, and due to distance constraints, George played all of the instrumentation for me to edit.

It’s as if an electric guitar is recorded with no power, which doesn’t help give a clear image of how it will sound at the end, however, this is done to make sure we can get the best performances possible, and just about every care was taken to get the best performance in every take, to make the best sounding record possible for our fans.

We care enormously about making the best art we can. I have huge respect for anyone that I record for or with, because the standard is incredibly high, and I have gotten used to hearing incredibly practiced performances thanks to George and his insane patience with my scrutiny.

And how does it differ to the band’s first EP, ‘Fleshbank’?

Personally, I consider ‘Utopia’ to be more of an XXL EP due to the writing process for it, and ‘Fleshbank’ as a single with some added bonus tracks that we had already written, but weren’t going to get released.

The important factor for us is how much cohesion we can get between the songs to make it feel like a joint unit. ‘Fleshbank’ was just songs we had at the time, whereas ‘Utopia’ was mostly connected music with similar themes, and a joint concept, in regards to the lyricism and musical style.

For a full-fat album, we want to write more songs, and have more control over the meandering path of listening over the full duration, so we can create a more unified piece of art as a whole.

That isn’t to say that we’re not incredibly proud of ‘Utopia’, and how much we feel like we could squeeze out of an EP’s worth of songwriting. The biggest differences come down to the overarching concept where each song leads into the next, and the sequencing of songs that are designed to tell a story within it.

You say that you are ready to light a new fire in the British metal scene. What is your opinion of it in its current state?

Personally, I think that hardcore in general has an amazing audience in the UK, and metal doesn’t have the impact to match it, despite most fans of the genre listening to many American and European acts that are popular.

We have some of the bigger bands, like Bury Tomorrow and Architects, that do incredibly well, however, I think there is room for more, and to explore more sounds in an authentic way within our genre in the UK.

How is the experience, for the band, of performing live?

Overwhelmingly positive. We love everyone that comes to our shows, and who have the honesty to come and speak to us after we play. Feedback of any kind and genuine conversation with people who are as passionate about music as we are is what we live for, and is why we focus so much on our live performance and making sure we are as tight as possible.

As a result, it feeds back into the performance and for me on stage, there is just a big feeling of positivity!

And finally, what are your plans now that the EP has come out?

We want to branch out geographically, and start to put our name out in the world, as much as possible, now that we have a statement behind us musically. We want to meet as many new people as possible, and share experiences with others!

Of Our Design EP Cover

‘UTOPIA’, THE LATEST RELEASE BY OF OUR DESIGN, IS AVAILABLE NOW.

FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

BANDCAMP

 

THE HOWLING LORDS

The Howling Lords band photo

THE HOWLING LORDS (from l-r): Jens Johansen (bass), Felix Saunders (vocals/guitar), Eoghainn Lapsley (drums)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Hailing from the Isle Of Lewis, off the western coast of Scotland, The Howling Lords are a three-piece currently going from strength to strength, having generated much support and acclaim for a gritty blues-rock sound, including huge guitar riffs and raw vocals, and inspired by a wide range of bands, spanning from The Who to Queens Of The Stone Age.

Having recently brought out their second album, ‘Texas Medicine’, the trio spoke to me about that, the collective’s journey so far, as well as what they have lined up for the near future.

How did the band get together?

We were created in a Stan Lee comic, and came to life. Jens is a forgotten Viking from the northern raids on Scotland, Eoghainn is a caveman that came out from hiding, and started hitting things with sticks, and as for Felix, well, you can make up your own mind, as some say he’s a space alien, whereas others say he is an inter-dimensional time traveller, but we all agree that he is strange.

How did the name The Howling Lords come about?

It came from a Rob Zombie film, and we decided to add to it the classic blues trope of something like “hollering blind” or “screaming“, and we guess the reason we went with “howling” is because subconsciously, we knew we would be loud, which…well, stand in a room with us when we plug in.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

We build and expand ideas until they become songs, some of which are instant, others are an exercise in patience, and it’s an honest collaboration, as we try to bring every idea to its fullest potential, but even then, if we don’t like them, then we just drop them, however, if the idea’s good enough, then we will come back to it somehow.

What inspires the band lyrically?

We always try to create pictures from our heads with words, but we are not always sure what we’re drawing, or even what the words are, as we have moments where words will flood through our minds, and the real trick, sometimes, is to capture them.

Recently, you brought out your second album, ‘Texas Medicine’. How was the recording process for that?

It was awesome. We were really focused throughout, and we made sure that we didn’t have any distractions such as the internet, television, or even radio, as we lived in the recording studio, which was miles from the nearest town or even village.

And how does the new release differ to the band’s previous work?

We think that each record shows something new, from the songwriting, to the overall production.

We may not be maturing as people, but we are definitely growing as musicians, as now, we like to try and push ourselves as individual performers, as much as we possibly can, however, it does take a lot more work when we have slow days.

You have established a solid reputation for putting on skilled, energetic live sets. How is it, for the band, performing on stage?

We try to keep everything tight, but mainly, we try to have fun, amuse ourselves, and generate a positive vibe for the crowd, as we just enjoy the fact that we are playing as close friends, and also that we get to see people enjoy what we’ve created together.

When we were younger, pop-punk and hardcore were both huge, those bands filled the stage with energy, and it left a mark on us.

And the band have also toured across Scotland and much of the UK, something you will be doing again next spring. How is the experience of touring for you all?

It’s quite fixed now, as we almost have our own little routine. We just tend to try and stay chilled, and not annoy each other too much, which to be honest, can be rather difficult when we’re all hungry and tired, but if that does happen, we have all forgiven each other by the time we get on stage and play those first notes.

And finally, what do you have planned once the album and tour are out of the way?

A holiday? A new album? We’re not sure yet, but we are sure that we will be making a noise, and also seeing what there is to do, we may play some festivals, and time will tell us all what’s next, but before all that, we need some coffee!

The Howling Lords Album Cover

‘TEXAS MEDICINE’, THE SECOND ALBUM FROM THE HOWLING LORDS, IS AVAILABLE NOW.

FURTHER DETAILS ON THAT, AND THE BAND, CAN BE FOUND HERE.