REALMS (from l-r): Jordan Ness (bass), Matt Shore (guitar), Karl Lauder (vocals), Jed Cooke (drums), Jonny Ford (guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
South Yorkshire five-piece Realms have made quite an impact on their local rock/metal music scene since unveiling debut EP, ‘Echo Chamber‘, in 2017, with a compelling, dense post-hardcore sound, heavily influenced by the emo outfits of the 2000’s.
With the band’s recent offering, ‘Burn The Orchard‘, effectively showcasing more of their originality, resulting in an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and fans alike, two members of the collective – vocalist Karl Lauder and guitarist Matt Shore – spoke to me, in-depth, about this, the quintet’s approaches to songwriting and lyrics, how they think coronavirus will affect the British music industry, and much more.
How did the band initially form?
MATT SHORE (guitar): Me and Karl met at uni when we were living in the same dorms. We got talking, and realised we had a very similar taste in music. We had both played in bands before, and we decided we wanted to try forming something together. However, because we’re lazy, the band didn’t actually take shape until after we had finished uni.
Karl already knew Jed from a previous band, and after they had both moved back to Doncaster when they finished uni, we persuaded Jed to record some songs me and Karl had written together. We told Jed that since he had already written the drum parts and recorded the songs, he might as well be the drummer, and he never disagreed, so he’s been stuck with us ever since.
We found Ford and Jordan through online ads in early 2016, and we’ve been going ever since then!
How did the name Realms come about?
MATT: We really wanted a band name that was just one word. We had been throwing around random words for a while, and eventually, Realms just stuck. I think it had something to do with what we would call a nightclub if we owned one, or something to do with Yu-Gi-Oh…
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
MATT: So far, we have always written the music first. It’s usually all done separately. Me or Ford will be jamming at home, will come up with a part that sounds good, and then develop it into a song on Guitar Pro.
With ‘Echo Chamber‘, there was a bit more collaboration where me and Ford might start a song, and then send it to each other to see if we could think of any other parts or ideas, but with ‘Burn The Orchard‘, it’s a 50/50 split of two songs that I wrote individually, and two songs that Ford wrote individually.
We don’t usually share the Guitar Pro files with the rest of the band until they are complete in our eyes. If we’re on the ball, Jed might write some drums to the GP file before we take the new song to practice, if not, we’ll just hash it out all together and see what comes out.
KARL LAUDER (vocals): It can vary when it comes to writing vocals and lyrics, but ultimately, I wait until Matt, Ford, and Jed have laid the foundations, and then I pick it up and work in melodies. I’ve learnt the hard way not to write bits prior to this because of the fluid nature of songwriting and how drums can really change the flow of a song. Sometimes, the melodies sound better on piano, and we can put piano in our songs, which is what happened with ‘Freefall‘.
My lyrics are 50/50 between pre-written and heat-of-the-moment, though I usually have a theme prior to the song being written, then we take it all to the practice room to iron kinks out. Sometimes, some vocal patterns that work in your head just don’t work when it comes to reality.
What inspires the band lyrically?
KARL: I treat my lyrics like an open therapy session ultimately. Whatever is eating me up, something I struggle to say to people in a close setting, etc. It’s an expression of, usually, my frustration of living in an unjust world and dealing with any emotional issues I have, yet I cannot address them directly to that person. I am an opinionated person, and I think that helps to pick the topic for each song I help write.
Recently, you brought out a new EP, ‘Burn The Orchard’, which has been positively received. How was the recording process for that?
MATT: We recorded ‘Burn The Orchard‘ in our friend’s (Liam Dodd) bedroom. We recorded ‘Echo Chamber‘ with him too, and since we were happy with how that sounded, we thought we would go back for round two.
It was a pretty chill experience mostly, we tracked some rough demos with him to begin with, so we could think about any extra production, we wanted to sprinkle into the songs and then went back to get the proper takes done later on. We just programmed the drums for the sake of simplicity. The guitars were done after that, then bass, and the vocals last. We quad-tracked the guitars to flesh them out a bit, and make them sound chunky.
It was quite a long, gruelling experience, to be honest (laughs), we often left our sessions feeling exhausted and mentally drained. I think it was about two full days to track the guitars.
KARL: Tougher than previously, but that was because vocally, it was a massive improvement. I discovered I can sing higher than I thought was possible, and it was really fun doing a song with all clean vocals to be honest. Doing all the screaming in a day was tiring, and I would have preferred to break it up, but we smashed it out the park, and I’m happy with the finished product.
And for those who have yet to listen to the release, how does it differ stylistically to ‘Echo Chamber’?
MATT: I think we learned a lot from writing ‘Echo Chamber‘ and playing those songs live that we incorporated into the new EP.
Looking back on ‘Echo Chamber‘, it feels a lot more “safe” than the new material. We were writing songs that we wanted to sound like other bands, whereas with ‘Burn The Orchard‘, we already had our own sound and identity, so I think it was easier to write songs that just sounded like Realms.
We definitely worked in some different influences and sounds that people maybe didn’t expect from us this time, especially the song ‘Freefall‘, which is entirely clean vocals and clean guitars with a lot of strings/piano layers.
KARL: For me personally, it’s just a massive one up on ‘Echo Chamber‘. Vocally, it’s 100 times better, from a songwriting standpoint, it’s 100 times better, and lyrically, I feel it’s more rounded, but knowing we can pull some of the things off that we did just makes me pumped to get back to the studio to see what we can make next.
You have played live at venues across Yorkshire, as well as in Birmingham and Nottingham, and have also supported the likes of InAir and CaveKiller. How is the experience – for you all – of performing on stage?
MATT: I love how every show is different. The show with CaveKiller, for example (who are great by the way, awesome dudes), was during that massive storm earlier this year. I can remember driving down the motorway to the show in all that awful weather wondering if I was crazy going out in weather warnings just to play a show, but when you get there, and you’ve finished playing, it’s always worth it.
Being on stage is a lot of fun, and chatting to the other bands afterwards or to people who enjoyed your set is awesome. It’s also a good excuse to get together with the boys for a night out.
KARL: I honestly dread it most nights, but in my opinion, it’s what drives me to be as good as I can be live, and when you really nail a good performance, there is no better feeling. Even if the people in the crowd weren’t into it, knowing we got up there and played as well as we could is such a good feeling.
I always get nervous, and even though we’ve been playing live for as long as we have, it never seems to get any easier. I’ll be the first to admit I’m my own worst critic, if I don’t feel I personally did as well as I could live, it really bums me out, and I tend to beat myself, but luckily, the lads will perk me up.
In the band’s opinion, how will the current global coronavirus pandemic affect the British music industry?
MATT: I’m worried about the venues. I’m hoping that they’re getting enough support through all this. I’ve seen that a few venues have set up fundraiser campaigns to make sure they can stay open during all of this, and to be fair, the support I’ve seen so far has been really good.
I’m looking forward to all the music that will come out of all this. This is the perfect time for bands and musicians to be locked away, and to work on their craft, and I think we’re going to have bands releasing some ace tunes at the end of all this.
I’m also hoping that once all the restrictions have been lifted, people will have a new appreciation of the local scenes. I’m hoping the “you don’t miss it until it’s gone” mentality kicks in, and that people will start attending local shows a bit more, especially if they have spent this lockdown period discovering new bands that they might not have checked out before.
KARL: Like Matt has just said, ultimately, it’s the live venues and live music scene that will suffer the most. Any small business is going to feel the pinch, and ultimately, I don’t know if some will survive.
And lastly, what are your future plans?
MATT: Our plans originally were to play some shows in support of the new EP, but that’s been put on the back burner, so we’re using this time to work on new music. Me and Ford have been furloughed, so we’ve had a lot of time on our hands to write songs. It’s been a more collaborative effort this time with joint inputs into what we’ve been working on which has been fun.
We want to steer away from releasing EPs for a little while, and focus on releasing a few singles in the future. EPs take a long time to get written, recorded, and released, and we don’t want such a long gap in releasing new music as we did between ‘Echo Chamber‘ and ‘Burn The Orchard‘.
We’re also hoping to record these singles in proper studios, so we can up our production standards, and take ourselves out of our comfort zones a little bit, so cost comes into it, as well.
KARL: During lockdown, we are currently working on some songs ourselves, and the plan is to do them as singles. I’d love to write an album, but the time it takes to write one means we wouldn’t get it out for a while, and the business model is kinda changing now to single-based stuff to get picked up and noticed, etc.
‘Burn The Orchard‘ was a big step in the right direction for us, so we are hoping to use everything we have learnt from these songs, and carry that into our next few releases, which we are hoping will be sooner than our latest EP, so watch this space, I guess.
‘BURN THE ORCHARD’ – THE SECOND EP FROM REALMS – IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: