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!
‘UTOPIA’, THE LATEST RELEASE BY OF OUR DESIGN, IS AVAILABLE NOW.
FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: