SYTERIA (from l-r): Pablo Calvo (drums/vocals), Keira Kenworthy (bass/vocals), Jackie “Jax” Chambers (guitar/vocals), Julia Calvo (vocals)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
PHOTO by MARC McGARRAGHY of YELLOW MUSTANG PHOTOGRAPHY
Formed in 2015 by Jackie “Jax” Chambers, current lead guitarist of Girlschool, one of the pioneers of the new wave of British heavy metal, and including bassist Keira Kenworthy, daughter of Mike, former drummer of Raven, an outfit considered to be a major influence on such legendary bands such as Metallica and Slayer, Yorkshire four-piece Syteria pride themselves on crafting a heavy blend of punk and rock that manages to positively sound both nostalgic and modern.
With this – and some brilliantly put together live sets – the band have been able to leave a lasting impression on audiences everywhere, which is something they will be hopeful of doing again this year, what with a series of gigs and festival appearances across the UK, and the release of ‘Reflection‘, the eagerly-anticipated follow-up to their well-received 2017 debut album, ‘Rantobot‘.
Jax and Keira recently spoke to me about all this – and much more.
Firstly, how did the band form?
JACKIE “JAX” CHAMBERS (guitar/vocals): I’d always wanted to have another band besides Girlschool, so that I’d be constantly playing and recording, so at the end of 2015, I put the word out, and I found Julia through a mutual friend of ours on Facebook.
Julia then found Keira online, and then we got together with her dad Mike to rehearse, with Julia‘s brother Pablo helping us out on drums. We initially looked for a permanent drummer, but then we saw Pablo and how good he was, so we decided to keep him on.
How did the name Syteria come about?
JAX: I am heavily into meditation these days, and I was reading a book where I came across the word “siteria“, which I believe is a spiritual name of a flower. I haven’t seen that reference since, but I liked it.
However, I thought it would look better written with a Y rather than an I, so I changed it and put it forward to the rest of the band as a possible name. We already had a long list of possible band names, so we decided to narrow it down little by little, which was easy to do as all the other ones we liked had already been taken by other rock bands across the world.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
JAX: When I write a song, I tend to start with a drum loop and jam around with it until I find a melodic riff or something that works, and then build it from there.
I have a lot of words that I’ve written over the years, which I’m still writing now, as I really love writing songs, and I try to add as much melody as I can in each instrument, and then building it up with the harmonies to top it all off.
KEIRA KENWORTHY (bass/vocals): It’s actually not as straightforward for me, as I need to be in a mindset to write songs, and most of the time, I’m too busy playing bass! (laughs)
When I do write though, I will always start with the rhythmic parts before I even think of a melody. I may also write out a few lyrics beforehand, and try to imagine in my head what the music is going to sound like, so it fits in with those lyrics.
What inspires the band lyrically?
KEIRA: There has been a lot going on in the world lately, which has really got our creative juices flowing. What is there not to talk about?
We can all agree that this is not a very happy planet right now, what with corporations and governments consistently letting us down, and the only way that they will realise this is through a revolution that would give power back to the people.
JAX: Despite this, we try not to be too negative with our lyrics. We make sure that we add a little humour here and there, as there’s enough doom and gloom out there as it is without us adding to it, so we like our music and melodies to be uplifting, and we also like our lyrics to make people smile.
In 2017, you brought out a debut album, ‘Rantobot’, to rave reviews, and it was also nominated for an Independent Music Award. Honestly, were any of you surprised by the response the album got at all?
JAX: It was so flattering to read all the positive reviews, because as a band, and as a songwriter, the best you can hope for is that people out there like what you’re doing.
When we had finished recording the album, we knew we had something special, as we had put so much love into it in the first place, and I think we have something truly unique in that we have four-part harmonies, which we use in every song so it helps to give them that sing-along feel.
KEIRA: The response was truly shocking for me, as usually you would expect at least some divisive opinion when it comes to reviewing an album, so we feel fortunate to have brought out something that somehow managed to tick all the boxes with our fans, and hopefully, we will do just as well with the follow-up.
On the subject of the follow-up – entitled ‘Reflection’, and coming out later this year – how has the recording process been for that?
KEIRA: Myself, Jax, and Pablo have been travelling down to Wales to record the drum and bass parts, which me and Pablo have been pretty quick at laying down, as we both lock in as a rhythm section, and know our parts well. We actually managed to record those parts of the tracks in only two days!
JAX: It will be my turn to head into the recording studio next, to record the guitar parts, and then Julia will go in to do the vocals.
It should all be done within ten days, as we’re not one of those bands who will spend months in the studio, and we’ve split the recording process in two parts, as we’ll be playing a lot of gigs in between, including our set at Camden Rocks.
Also, how will the new album differ stylistically to the first?
KEIRA: This will be the first time that each member of the band has written a song, so the style will be more diverse, and with the songs that each of us has written, our influences and personalities shine through better, as each of our individual influences and styles have now become much more important to the uniqueness of our sound.
JAX: There will still be some rants in there, of course!
You mentioned Camden Rocks earlier. Which other bands/artists are you personally looking forward to seeing play there?
KEIRA: We’ll be headlining the Dublin Castle on the Sunday evening, so it would be great for us to be able to catch a few other acts beforehand. Personally, I would love to see Bad Touch and Black Sixteen.
JAX: Unfortunately, I’m in the unusual situation that I won’t be able to attend most of the festival, as I’ll be in Wales, recording the guitar parts for ‘Reflection‘. However, I will be coming down for the Sunday, and I’m hoping to catch some new bands, and also seeing what else is around.
I personally think events like this are fabulous, as bands who nobody may have heard of get the chance to play and potentially be discovered.
And it will be the first time the band will have played in Camden since your equipment was stolen, which must have been a rather traumatic experience for you all.
JAX: It happens, unfortunately, and it was such a downer after we had had a great night at The Lounge playing with Hands Off Gretel, another band who are from Yorkshire.
KEIRA: I think when you’ve heard so many stories of other bands getting their gear nicked, then you have no doubt in your mind that it could happen to you as well, so we have always been vigilant with our gear since the beginning, but it wasn’t enough to stop us getting nearly £1,500 worth of gear stolen by some scumbags.
JAX: And it wasn’t as if they had stolen it from outside the venue, as we had parked our car in the car park of the nearby hotel we were staying at, which was underground, had CCTV cameras, and was near the main entrance, so we assumed that everything would be secure.
Of course, the hotel management didn’t do anything about it, and the police seemed like they couldn’t have cared less, which was a shame, but we were just grateful that they hadn’t taken the car as well, so we went, “It could have been worse, and nobody’s died“, and just dealt with it.
You’ve toured across the UK, and have played numerous festivals, some as far afield as Greece and Thailand. How were they as experiences?
KEIRA: I loved it when we did the gigs abroad, as it always felt like we were going on a mini holiday, and even if we are away for only a few days, we managed to make our experience memorable in some way, for example, the first gig we ever did abroad was in Zurich in Switzerland, and we actually recorded a live album there, which unfortunately is no longer available, as it was only a limited edition release.
The Wildfire Festival in Scotland was also a blast to do, as we had a great crowd and a great sound. During the end of our set there, we were finishing off with ‘When I Get Out Of High School‘, and Jax noticed that there were some little girls with inflatable guitars, so we invited them up on stage with us, and afterwards, we autographed each one of the guitars. Bless ’em! (laughs)
And how is it overall performing on stage?
KEIRA: It’s brilliant! Pablo and I are very tight as a rhythm section, and each of the band members mesh together, becoming one full unit.
JAX: That’s where we really come into our own, as we all love playing live, and I think our personalities show through in every performance.
Even when we’re not really feeling it before a gig, as soon as we hit those first few bars of a song, we’re transported into our little world of fun, but we always try to involve the audience as well, as after all, we’re there to entertain them.
KEIRA: We have the energy, and we’ve got the look, plus some choreography! Come and see us to believe it! (laughs)
And lastly, album aside, what has the band got lined up for the near future?
JAX: With the release of ‘Reflection‘, we hope to be touring as much as possible, and right now, we’re in talks about a distribution deal to release it, but firstly, we’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the recording, so everyone who has helped in that will get their album three months before it is actually released, as our way of saying thank you.
Also, we will be putting out some new videos to go along with the tracks, which are always fun to do.
‘REFLECTION’ – THE SECOND ALBUM FROM SYTERIA – WILL BE RELEASED LATER THIS YEAR. THE BAND ARE CURRENTLY RAISING FUNDS FOR ITS RECORDING, SO IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DONATE, GO TO www.kickstarter.com BEFORE JUNE 6.
SYTERIA WILL ALSO BE PLAYING AT CAMDEN ROCKS NEXT WEEKEND. THEIR SET WILL BE AT THE DUBLIN CASTLE, SUNDAY JUNE 2, AT 10:45pm. MORE INFO ON THE FESTIVAL CAN BE FOUND BELOW:
ALSO, FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BAND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: