TO KILL ACHILLES (from l-r): Matthew Tippett (bass), Kieran Smith (drums), Mark Tindal (vocals), Shaun Lawrence (guitar), Marc Sharp (guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
From Dundee in Scotland, five-piece To Kill Achilles play a distinctive brand of melodic metalcore, incorporating the use of other musical genres such as pop, rock and emo.
The band’s sound, as well as frank, personal lyrical content, has enabled them to amass a fast-expanding worldwide fan base, which has seen the quintet play live in much of Europe and Russia.
The outfit, with their motto, “We’re all in these together“, also have a strong work ethic, having recently released an EP, and have already started to put together a new album.
Taking time from this to headline the Derby Alt Fest at the end of last month, To Kill Achilles chatted in-depth with me about their journey so far, and what their hopes are for the future.
How did the band get together?
SHAUN LAWRENCE (guitar): It’s a long story! It must have been about seven years ago, actually, neither of us were there at the beginning.
MARK TINDAL (vocals): Basically, Sharpy (Marc Sharp), our guitarist, started the band with some of his friends. Some left, some joined, and we came in after the first six months.
It was literally just friends playing music together and having a good time, you know, and that’s still the case now.
SHAUN: I had been in another band before I joined this one. Sharpy and the other guys had kicked out their old guitarist, and they asked me to fill in. I said, “Yeah, alright, but I’m not going to join permanently“, and I’m still here today.
How did the name To Kill Achilles come about?
MARK: There’s a bit of a concept behind it. The initial idea was that we wanted to do tracks that were kind of messages to make people feel better and stuff, so Achilles was this Greek god that you could never be, but he had a weak spot, which was his heel, so the name kind of influences the theory that anything is possible.
The Achilles thing also came about by watching the film Troy.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
SHAUN: Actually, what we tend to do is that we come up with a lot of personal lyrics, stuff that has happened to us, and we try to convey that into a story. It’s not something really niche, it can relate to any individual.
Sometimes, we will actually write the music first, we will get an image from what we hear, and when that happens, we will write a song like that.
MARK: Some of our lyrical content is also based on, and I know this sounds weird, films that don’t exist, so I try to think up of a film and a story that could happen in it.
I always try to make sure there is a beginning, middle and end, that it’s a full story rather than just buzzwords, which I don’t like in songs.
What are the band’s main musical influences?
MARK: It’s quite a weird one, with our style, to be honest, because we do play around with a few genres.
SHAUN: Honestly, as a band and as people individually, we don’t really listen to metal. I listen to a lot of The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon, Fleetwood Mac, things like that, it’s not what we take as musical inspiration, it’s rather the stories they put together in the lyrics.
We also listen to a lot of Architects, Slaves, both really good bands, and that’s actually where a few ideas for our songwriting have come from as well. Mostly, we take in as much as we can, and see what comes out.
I’ve always said that we don’t really have an approach to songwriting, we just sort of start writing, and then we see what happens. We don’t just sit down and go, “We’re going to write this today“, one of us will have an idea with some imagery behind it and a story in their mind, and if we like the idea, we go forward with it.
MARK: That’s what we do.
You’ve recently released an EP, ‘Anywhere But Here’. How was the recording process?
MARK: Really good, actually. Luckily, I record other bands in my spare time, so for the recording of this EP, it was the first time I had tracked everything, so basically, it was so much fun, because we are all such good friends. We like to think of ourselves as friends first, bandmates second.
It was great, we’d had the songs written for a while, and then I just gave everyone else a call, saying, “Come down and put some guitars to them, man.”
SHAUN: There was no pressure. We did the first album in a studio, and we had a lot of ideas, but we were never really able to turn them into full songs.
It was money on the clock, though, which we didn’t have this time around, so we could approach things more at our own leisure, which probably made the time it took to record longer than it should have done, but it was a good learning curve. We now know what to do next time.
MARK: We did experiment with a lot of ideas, and because with this one, there was no time limit, when I was tracking the final bit and something went wrong, we could actually go, “No, that’s not too bad, keep it.”
The final mix was done for us by Avenue Studios in Surrey, and they were incredible. They really did work their magic.
How is the latest EP different to what the band has done before?
MARK: It’s a lot heavier, but there’s a lot of emotional content in it. The title track itself is about never doing something you don’t want to do, basically, so people who have been stuck in rubbish jobs for ages and are depressed, not doing what they want.
SHAUN: Like the nine-to-five grind, no-one really wants to do that, and ‘Anywhere But Here’ is kind of like, “I want to be anywhere but in this kind of social structure, where there is a grind.”
MARK: There’s a couple of other tracks as well. ‘These Days’ is about war, and the way the world works at the moment. It’s much heavier, but there’s also a couple of influences from lighter stuff, there’s a few melodic breaks.
SHAUN: The song structures are a lot more mature than what we’ve had before. In the past, we were really guilty of doing a lot of stuff through composed, which we’ve done on this EP as well, but we’re kind of moving away from that now.
We’ve found structures that we like, and we’re actually repeating things that we enjoy. It’s like with a chorus, we go, “What’s that?” (laughs)
You’ve played across the UK and much of Europe, also supporting the likes of While She Sleeps and We Came As Romans. How is the experience of playing live and touring?
MARK: It is the literal best thing in our lives.
SHAUN: Best thing around.
MARK: On our first tour, we were bitten by the bug, as it were. We were absolutely hooked straight away.
It says on the band’s Facebook page that you’ve also played Russia and plan to tour Asia in the future.
SHAUN: Yeah. Russia came about through our manager and booking agent at the time giving us this weird tour, going to places such as Italy and Bulgaria. He wanted to test our resilience, to see if we could tour as a band.
It did throw us in the deep end, but after that, we wanted to be out on the road for as long as possible. We aim to do three or four tours a year, even though our last one was cancelled through something that was out of our hands. We’ve slowed down recently, but that’s because we’ve been busy behind the scenes.
We don’t want to become this bigger band or anything like that, we just want to go to as many places as possible. We’d love to tour Asia, go back to Russia, and it would be amazing if we could get to play a few gigs in the States.
What are the band’s plans for the near future?
MARK: We’ve started writing a new album, we’re about seven songs deep at the moment. We did have quite a long stagnant period where we didn’t bring out any music, we just toured a lot, but now, we’ve got more time in which to get more stuff recorded and released.
What is your long-term aim?
MARK: Really, it’s just to travel and play as much as we can, also to meet and talk to as many people as possible.
SHAUN: When we went to Russia and other places like that, there were culture shocks, even in eastern Europe, because we come from a place that’s not necessarily anti-Eastern, but there seems to be a lot of propaganda about how these places work and how these people are, but when you actually go there, you find that the propaganda is just a load of shit.
It’s really humbling to be able to go to a country like Russia, and you know, speak to the local people, because you can get an insight into what it’s really like there, so to get away from here and visit as many countries as possible, it builds up your knowledge on what actually goes on.
Also, it’s something you can show your family and friends in years to come. You can say to them, “This is what I’ve done, this is how I’ve made my mark.”
MARK: I guess, literally, the plan is to be able to, like Shaun’s just said, to say one day that we did all of these things. That’s my end goal. I can say, “When I was 27, I did all of this, and it was amazing.” That’s all I could ask for.
‘ANYWHERE BUT HERE’, THE LATEST EP FROM TO KILL ACHILLES, IS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE FROM THE BAND’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE www.tokillachilles.bigcartel.com
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