Interview: Cheriff Bakala

Deadheading had the opportunity to chat with Cheriff Bakala, who was featured in the Al-Jazeera documentary “Sunday in Brazzaville”, about songwriting, the challenges of recording in the DRC, and plans for his next musical project.

DH: Quelle a été la première chanson que vous avez jamais écrite?
What was the first song you ever wrote?

CB: La première chanson que j’ai écris, était une chanson d’amour appelé AMOUR ; en cette période j’étais au collège et c’était mes premières poésie.
The first song I wrote was a love song called LOVE; during this time I was in school and it was my first (musical) verse.

DH: Vous avez continué à enregistrer votre album malgré des difficultés comme les coupures d’électricité dans le studio. Que pensez-vous être l’aspects le plus difficile de faire de la musique?
You continued to record your album despite difficulties such as power cuts in the studio. What do you think you are the most difficult aspects of making music?

CB: Malgré les coupures d’électricité ,nous avons continué à enregistrer notre album, car nous sommes déjà habitué de travailler dans de telles conditions . L’aspect le plus difficile en musique c’est la production et la promotion de nos œuvres , car composer une musique et faire son arrangement est une routine.
Despite the power cuts, we continued to record our album, because we are already used to working in such conditions. The most difficult aspect in music is the production and promotion of our works, because composing and arranging music is a routine.

DH: Comment décririez-vous la scène musicale actuelle à Brazzaville?
How would you describe the current music scene in Brazzaville?

CB: La scène musicale de Brazzaville à de l’engouement , le public est au rendez vous , mais les productions sont rares par manque de sponsors et subventions.
The music scene in Brazzaville is full of enthusiasm, the public is the place to be, but shows are scarce due to lack of sponsors and subsidies.

DH: Généralement, ce qui arrive d’abord quand vous écrivez: la musique, ou les paroles?
Generally, what comes first when you write: music, or lyrics?

CB: Généralement , quand j’écris ce sont les paroles qui arrivent avant par inspirations, et quand il y a la présence d’un instrument cela facilite la manière de composer.
Generally, when I write, it is the words which arrive before (musical) ideas, and when there is an instrument present, it facilitates composition.

DH: Y at-il jamais une disparité entre ce que vous avez l’intention d’écrire et ce que vous vous retrouvez avec?
Is there ever a disparity between what you intend to write and what you end up with?

CB: Non, il n’ y a pas de disparité, car il y a des chansons qui viennent par inspiration; donc assez facile á écrire et à composer. Le plus difficile, c’est quand on vous impose une thématique. Mais on s’en sort toujours.
No, there is no disparity, because there are songs which come about from being inspired; therefore, it is quite easy to write and compose. The hardest (way to write) is when you impose a theme, but we keep doing (it).

DH: Que préférez-vous: enregistrer ou jouer en direct?
What do you prefer: recording, or playing live?

CB: Je préfère jouer en direct, puisque l’émotion est plus forte du fait d’être en contact avec le publique.
I prefer to play live, because the emotion is stronger when in contact with the public.

DH: À quel moment avez-vous sérieusement commencé à envisager une carrière en musique?
When did you start to seriously consider a career in music?

CB: J’ai commencé à envisager une carrière en 2003, quand j’ai intégré l’un des grands de hip-hop de l’époque, LÉGITIME BRIGADE.
I began to consider a career (in music) in 2003, when I joined one of the greats of hip-hop at the time, LÉGITIME BRIGADE.

DH: Y at-il quelque chose que vous souhaitez que vous aviez connu quand vous avez commencé à jouer de la musique?
Is there anything you wish you had known when you started playing music?

CB: Quand j’ai commencé la musique, j’avais toujours voulu entreprendre une carrière professionnelle riche en tournée dans différents pays, pour des échanges culturelles passionnantes: dans le partage et la réception des expériences.
When I started music, I had always wanted to start a professional career with lots of touring in different countries, for exciting cultural exchanges: the sharing and receiving of experiences.

DH: Où trouvez-vous des influences pour votre musique?
Where do you find influences for your music?

CB: Ma musique est influencé par des sonorités Téké (Cong-Brazzaville ) mais aussi par les rythmiques Bémbé ,Kongo et nzobi de mon pays le Congo.
My music is influenced by Teké sounds (Cong-Brazzaville) but also by the the Bémbé [popular in festivities and celebrations], Kongo and the Nzobi [a ceremonial practice of seeking healing through music and dance] rhythms of my country, the Congo.

DH: Quels artistes vous inspirent le plus?
Which artists inspire you most?

CB: Les artistes qui m’inspirent sont: Franklin Boukaka (Congo-Brazzaville); Femi Kuti ( Nigeria ), et Michael Jackson (USA).
The artists who inspire me are: Franklin Boukaka (Congo-Brazzaville); Femi Kuti (Nigeria), and Michael Jackson (USA).

DH: Qu’avez-vous prévu pour l’année à venir?
What are you planning for the year ahead?

CB: Pour la prochaine année , je prévois un spectacle de musique-chant-théâtre axé sur les citations de Nelson Mandela. D’ailleurs en 2012 j’ai crée *Martin Luther King, apôtre de la non violence*sur les textes de King,puis *Sony la bombe à hydrogène* sur les textes de Sony Labou Tansi; aussi un nouvel album est en vue.
For the upcoming year, I am planning a musical theatre show focused on the passages and quotes of Nelson Mandela; in 2012, I created “Martin Luther King, Apostle of Non-Violence”, (based) on King’s texts, then “Sony’s Hydrogen Bomb” on the texts of Sony Labou Tansi. Also, a new album is in sight

DH: Pouvez-vous voir la musique toujours être votre objectif principal?
Can you see music always being your primary objective?

CB: Oui, je compte continuer dans la meme lancé pour des projets artistiques diverses: le coaching, les ateliers…
Yes, I intend to continue in the same way for (completing) various artistic projects: coaching, workshops…

DH: Qu’écoutez-vous le plus actuellement?
What are you listening to at the minute?

CB: Actuellement , j’écoute Jacques Loubelo (Congo) et Asa ( Nigeria).
Currently, I am listening to Jacques Loubelo (Congo) and Asa (Nigeria).

You can listen to more of Cheriff’s music featured in “Sunday in Brazzaville” here:
https://www.youtube.com/user/dimancheabrazzaville

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Interview: Lost Avenue

DH: What’s your favourite song to play live?
DB: I like playing “Sudden Death”, which is a new one (and is literally being mixed right now), because it starts with a pretty long vocal intro, and it makes me feel really special.
DL: We don’t play it that often, but when we do I really love it because it’s more bass-oriented towards the end; “Kissing and Cuddling”, which is really fun to play and energetic, so I enjoy it.
MB: I’m the same as Dualta- anything fast works for me.
DB: I was going to say “Daggers” actually, because it makes people go crazy; it’s normally the last song and everybody loses their shit.

DH: How did you arrive at your current incarnation?
DB: There have been a lot of different line-ups. I’m the only founding member in the band at the minute. Five years ago, I started a band with a couple of friends of mine at school, and we were just like a garage band; we did covers and that, and then we starting writing some originals and doings some demos. So that was a three-piece, and the bassist and the drummer left, so Michael (Brown) came in to do drums, and we got another bass player, Jack, and we put out an EP called “Ethanol”, and we toured that- we went to England for the first time and whatnot. After that, when we came back, Michael and Jack left, and I met Dualta and Rhys.

DL: Rhys and I were out busking at Guildhall Square, and Dylan got chatting to Rhys after that, and Rhys was going to play bass with him and got in the band, but he didn’t want to play bass; he wanted to play guitar, so Rhys kind of knew me and I didn’t play in any other bands, so I came in on bass then. I knew Charlie too, who then played drums for-
DB: -maybe two and a half years? So we lasted for like a year with him and Rhys, maybe less, as musical differences got in the way. I wouldn’t say that we really started though, until after Rhys left- then Dualta and I started getting very seriously into it.

DL: We were playing loads and loads of shows; anything we could get.
DB: Yeah, we were writing and demoing flat out, trying to get ourselves out there, and then we did “Daggers”, which did quite well for us- we sold all the copies of it and we knew we were doing alright, and got some radio play.
DL: Did some festivals and stuff over the summer and all-
DB: -and at the end of the summer, we had our differences with Charlie, so we parted ways with him. After Michael had left, we’d stayed friends, and we went to tech together, so we were always hanging about, and he knew Dualta because he’d stood in on drums for a couple of gigs that Charlie couldn’t make, so we started jamming together.
We thought that we’d start a side project, us three, and then when Charlie left we thought, “Why not get Michael to play in this band?”.

DL: Michael jumped in with us halfway through a tour His first show was in one of the same venues that he’d stood in at before, so that was cool.
MB: I was off the plane from a holiday about six hours, and I went to bring these two presents that I’d brought back, because I always hung about with them, so I just brought them a load of tobacco, and they said, “Do you want to play show tonight?”, and I just said, “Aye, why not.”, so it was like “See everybody later, I’m away on tour!”.

DL: This is the “Lost Avenue” line-up now, definitely. It’s much tighter- the whole writing process and touring process, and everything about it works. This is the best it’s ever worked.
MB: We all get along too like, and that’s one of the main things you have to think about. Like if you don’t get along with somebody, how can you spend a week, or two weeks, in a room with them? We all get along, and it’s lethal craic.

DH: What, if anything are you doing differently with this release?
DB: For start, we’re spending a lot more time on it. The last time, when we did “Daggers”, we tracked four tunes in two days and mixed everything in a day; this time we tracked the two tunes in three days, and we’re probably going to take longer than a day to mix. We’re going to get them mastered by someone who’s done a lot of work with New Found Glory and a lot of pop-punk bands, and stuff like that in the States.
The way we’re releasing it too, we’re going to put it out on lathe cut, which is like a seven-inch single kind of shape.

DL: It’s not vinyl. It’s handmade, so every copy sounds slightly different.
MB: Even the way you put it onto a record player, you have to change the weight of the needle and all. It’s like a limited edition sort of thing that we’re going for.
DL: We’re only doing twenty of those. It’ll be online, and the download codes will be available for t-shirts and CDs and stuff, but we want to make these limited edition.
DB: We know who our fans are, and we know that they’ll appreciate having something that only they have.
DL: It’s more intimate.

DH: What are you learning from recording this time?
DB: We’ve learnt that the more time (spent recording) the better, but we’re also learning that less is more, in terms of stuff like how many overdubs you’re going to do. We’re letting it be a bit more natural.
DL: Before, we were all, “Distortion, distortion, distortion!” like, but it gets lost, and nearly sounds sloppy.
DB: Unless you have six months to sit and mix.

DL: I think this time as well, because we’ve worked with Chris (Cassidy) and Caolan (Austin) before, we’re more comfortable. We’ve got a really sound working relationship, so we’re not hesitant to voice our thoughts or opinions on the production. The sounds we were getting were good, but this time, being more involved with the production, we’re getting what we really want.

DB: We have a better understanding of how things should sound. Like last time, I was just, “Get the Marshall and Orange out and turn things up full with my Gibson!”, but this time it’s on the Vox, which is slightly more refined and it’s a cleaner amp, and – I’m not going to switch to it, because I couldn’t play a Fender live-, but I’ve been using a Telecaster here, and a Mustang quite a bit too.

DL: I’ve been using two basses too, and there’s some really good bass amps, but there’s others with guitar heads that produce more experimental sounds, because they give a good bit of distortion, but not so much that it’s getting lost. It sounds more like us, and more advanced.

MB: I used thirty five drums. This is my first time ever in a studio, and they do it live here, which is something else. It really does capture the energy, which there’s a lot of in these upcoming singles. I didn’t know how it would be in a studio, but you walk through the doors here and it feels like home, which makes everything so much easier. I think you’re able to play much better when it’s live; you’re less tense, and the thing with Chris and Caolan is that they’re patient. They want you to get it right.

DL: We’d never recorded with a click track before. We recorded “Daggers” with a click track, but the older stuff- we took it offline, so people aren’t able to hear it. So now, it’s far tighter, and just everything about the Smalltown studio is brilliant.

DH: “Lost Avenue” technically started out in 2010. Is there anything that you wish you’d known when you began to make music?

DB: When I started out, I didn’t know anything, and I’m glad I didn’t, because you can’t know anything unless you do it. We had a lot of fuckups; our first ever demo, which I don’t even recognise as being in existence-
DL: I’ve never heard it.
MB: Neither have I.
DB: – it was so shit. I sang in the worst Tom DeLonge type accent, and we printed about ten copies and sold them to our friends at school, and we just got the biggest amount of grief. But I have learnt that if you’re not one hundred percent proud of something, like if you don’t love this song more than you love any other song, then don’t put it out, because no one will care.

DL: I wish I knew how to play bass. I was playing in this band for nearly a year before I bought a bass. I was playing other people’s, and I didn’t really care about that aspect of it, but now I love it more than guitar or anything else. It takes a while in your head, because “it doesn’t sound as good as a guitar!”.

MB: I wish I knew I had to put a hundred percent in. The first time I was in “Lost Avenue”, I was giving it a good amount, but I wasn’t giving it a hundred percent, and now that I’m back I’m just throwing my everything at the band. Even with song writing, I’m throwing in ideas, which I haven’t done before, and in doing that, you feel much better about the song, because it makes you love the song.

DH: Are you proud of your previous releases?
DL: I’m proud of “Daggers”.
DB: No, I’m proud of “Ethanol”, because it-
DL: We got loads of press for that, in “Hot Press” and “Louder Than War”.
DB: -at the time I thought it sounded trashy, because I was listening to a lot of glossy pop-punk, but now that I’ve gotten into hardcore, stuff like “Minor Threat” and all, it’s made me realise that it doesn’t have to be amazing.

DH: Is song writing typically a solo or communal affair?
DB: It’s a mix.
DL: Dylan more often than not presents the idea, and comes in with a riff or idea, and then we’ll have a basic drumbeat to start, to get the structure of the song, and then I’ll come up with an idea that’s different from Dylan’s, and I’ll say, “I’ll play my idea and you play yours!”, so it saves us from having to pick, if I play my idea on bass and he plays his on guitar.

DB: Sometimes it sounds crazy-
MB: Sometimes it sounds terrible!
DL: Sometimes it does sound terrible, but in the whole song, there might be one bit in the middle that’s we’ll stick with and use somewhere.

DH: Generally, what comes first: the lyrics, or the music?
DB: Usually, I’ll write lyrics before anything else, but the melody will be there in my head, and I’ll know what the melody is, so I can try and jam it on guitar. So I’ll maybe have the lyrics and the melody and the chords, but know that it’s not a well-rounded song, so me and Dualta will normally come up with the music, and jam the verses and choruses from there, and Michael will flash it up a wee bit.
DL: We just keep playing it-
MB: While they’re doing that part, I’m in hibernation for about six months.
DL: He’s only been in the band for six months!

MB: No, they do their bit, and for the most part, while they’re doing that, I just sit back behind the kit and listen, and listen, and listen. They might be doing that for an hour, so I’m just sitting there listening, because the way I write my drums, nothing’s too complicated. You can’t go over the top, and when you do go over the top, there’s a way to make it sound right, and there’s a way that makes it like you’re showing off.
When I’m done listening, I’ll do a simple beat, and like Dylan says, it gets flashier, but it’s still not showing off. Any song that I’ve written with “Lost Avenue”, the drums are never the same as they were when we first played it. They always end up being completely different from what we start with, and it just keeps evolving, but it gets to a certain point where we say stop.

DL: I was playing something completely different (before recording) from what I’ve been playing in the studio. Given Chris and Caolan’s input as well, it always seems to evolve further in the studio. We go through about twenty five stages of a song.
DB: The only thing that stays the same throughout is the words.
DL: Even this time, some of the lyrics had to be altered slightly, to fit the timing.

DB: They tweak themselves. We’ve played these songs maybe thirty times before coming in here, at shows, and we don’t really use set lists. We have an opener and an ender, and we play the songs, and with everything we do live, we add in jams, and it’s all very spontaneous, so we might go afterwards, “You did something there that should be in the song.”, so we don’t sit down and go “We need to add this and that.”. Then, when we get into the studio – we’d sent demos to Chris and Caolan, so maybe they’d be like, “That’s good, but what about a double chorus?”- we alter things further.

MB: One of the things that I’ve liked about doing these singles is that Caolan himself is a drummer, so he really advised me on my playing and all. In “Sudden Death”, I’ve tweaked the drums in that, and instead of me shouting through to him, he actually came out and chatted to me for about five minutes. The key thing that Dylan said earlier too, about less is more, not going over the top; you don’t have to go over the top for it to sound tight. You don’t have to be going mad, and there was this part in “Sudden Death” that was really messy- we thought it was brilliant, playing it live and all- and it just sounded too messy in the studio, so Caolan’s really helped me strip it back, and it sounds much better now.

DL: The song writing for these two songs, because we demoed them, we were able to listen back, which we did a lot of times, so we could say, “That should be different.”, so the songs were nearly rewritten after they were demoed, and we were able to keep going back to them, which made a big difference.

(MB has to leave early)

DH: Is there ever any disparity between what you intend to write and what you actually come up with? If so, do you find that frustrating?
DB: I find it good, because usually every song I write is, in my head, a single.
DL: Like Dylan says, when I start off, everything that I write, I see as a single too, because Dylan and Michael are into things being a bit more experimental. I’m into shit music, like I love it, but the majority of people hate it. Just like, messy and discordant noise, like No Means No and Fugazi and that kind of thing. So Dylan will have-
DB: See, them two boys don’t, but I really appreciate pop music, like choruses and hooks and singing along and shit. I love Dischord (Records); I love Ian McKaye and Fugazi and No Means No and punk music, but I also love pop. Not pop like Nicki Minaj, but The Cure and The Smiths- good pop music. I like pop-punk too, and that sort of thing. So, for me, everything’s a single; if you listen to the Black album or Green Day, every song could have been a single.

DL: So Dylan writes a single, and there might be a noisy bit or a breakdown that I’ll come up with, like a tempo change or play it at half-time or something, so it makes it really sludgy.
DB: Sometimes we have stuff like that, and we think, “It’s good, but it’s not going to be a single”.
DL: Unless it’s really good.

DH: Have you ever written anything that you felt you couldn’t release? If so, why?
DL: There are loads of songs that we’ve completely forgotten about.
DB: Yeah, it used to be that if we wrote a song, we’d just record it and put it out. Since “Daggers”, we’ve written maybe twelve or fifteen songs that were all going to be this single.

DL: For a month and a half, maybe two months there, we were just churning out songs, and there were so many arguments about what we should record. The song “Killing Time” that we’re recording in here, we wrote that not that long ago, but we had to go back and do demos for it.
DB: Now that these songs are of a higher standard, we don’t feel like we can go back and put out songs that are good, but not of the same standard.

DH: When are you hoping to release these singles?
DB: We were thinking about doing it in September, but we had a chat with Caolan, and we’re now thinking about putting them out in the summer, because we’ll be doing festivals and whatnot, and we’re starting to tour in September and October- we’re doing the UK in September, and Ireland in October, and it’s going to be our biggest tour yet, so we can’t wait- so we’re thinking that we’ll put the singles out in June to build the hype-
DL: So that people will have something to listen to in the meantime.

DB: Then we’ll hopefully start mass printing it while we’re on tour- for us, mass printing is about 500 copies- and then take them on tour, but there’ll be download codes and stuff too, so we’ll maybe put the lathe cut ones out in June.
DL: More than likely, we’ll release these at the start of the summer, but up until yesterday, we were for releasing them in September, so-
DB: At some point in the next five years, they’ll be able to hear the songs. Saying that, we’ll probably play them to enough people in the meantime-
DL: Yeah, I’ll probably end up leaking them; sharing them on Facebook by accident or something.

DH: How did you come to be involved with Slop Records?
DB: That’s our own label.
DL: It’s just a platform for us to release our music. Dylan and I sat drinking every night for about two weeks, and were like, “Let’s make a record label!”, so we had a file block of notes and everything, and were all up for expanding it-
DB: -and then we realised that it was going to take money. Maybe in the future, but right now we’re at a point where we can’t go putting out other bands’ records-
DL: -because we’re so focused on or own stuff, there’d be no point.

DB: We still chat about getting other bands on board though, because we’d go see a show or someone would be supporting us, and we’d be like, “We should sign them!”, but in the meantime, it’s just us.

DH: It seems that you’ve been moving towards a more polished, but yet more traditional punk sound. Has that been a conscious decision on your part?
DB: It’s been extremely intentional. We got into hardcore and stuff like that, and different bands always change you to some degree, so “Daggers” was very much influenced by post-hardcore; bands like At The Drive-In and No Means No. Even a lot of local bands too-
DL: Yeah, Jetplane Landing and Fighting With Wire are two of my favourite bands.
DB: I think we’ve reached a point where we’ve gotten into so many bands that we’ve taken all that and moulded our sound.

DL: The stuff we’re releasing now isn’t post-hardcore; it’s Lost Avenue. We’re not trying to be anyone else; we still take influence from other things, because we love music, but now Lost Avenue is a definitive thing.

DH: Of all the groups that you tend to encounter, punk fans are probably the most puritanical in their approach to music. Do you find it difficult to make that kind of music without being accused of plagiarism?
DL: When you listen back, you can hear a lot of bands in our music.
DB: I don’t think we’re ripping anybody off, so it’s not really a problem. I think that with punk fans, there can be a lot of snobbery, and some seem to appreciate bands that are guilty of plagiarism, to some extent. I mean, they liked “Ethanol” because it sounds like a lot of other dirty garage bands, and they like it because they just like for being that kind of punk.

DL: Even with a lot of people that listen to British punk, like the Sex Pistols, don’t listen to American hardcore. For instance, I really like hardcore, but I don’t really like British punk.
DB: I have a book about American hardcore, and at the end they talk about what became of all the people involved in it, and it was like, “Ian McKaye, of the fantastic Minor Threat, went on to start a post-hardcore band that wasn’t as good called ‘Fugazi’.”, like, what?! They’re one of the best bands of all time! So there is a snobbery with punk, if something doesn’t fit and isn’t exactly what they want it to be.

DL: A lot of people are happy to listen to the same band over and over again, or even the same band in different formats, with different members.

DH: With that in mind, do you feel a certain pressure to sound a particular way?
DB: No, definitely not. It’s not something we care about, so if we come in with something that we don’t think sounds like us, we then think, “Well, we’d better get it out there.”.

DH: What do you prefer: recording, or playing live?
DB: Playing live. It’s what we do.
DL: I do like recording, because we don’t do it that often- say we spend four days recording, we spend the rest of our time practising and playing live- but for me, playing live is the best thing ever. Our first UK tour was the first time we felt like we were touring properly, like we were sleeping somewhere else every night. I mean, when you’re playing Ireland- we played in Cork, and we were going to drive home that night, but the car broke down so we slept in it instead- no matter where you are, you can drive home the next day and go onto the next show, whereas when we were in the UK, we were on public transport-
DB: -and getting to play a different city every night, and meeting so many different people. Being on the road too, with Michael and Dualta all the time, you get close, and you have a great time together.

DL: It gets to the point where we do feel like brothers.
DB: You get to know each other so well, and it’s so good- it’s like being on a never-ending holiday with your friends, which is the best part, and then playing the shows is a very close second best. It’s unbelievable to be able to play to people whose accent you’ve never even heard before. It’s especially strange too, because when we were in London, a load of people came and asked us for CDs, and that kind of hit us-
DL: We were like, “Are you serious?”.
DB: -I mean, living in what must be the musical capital of Europe, and they’re asking us for CDs; it was a good trip.

DH: What’s the best gig that you’ve ever played?
DL: Sandinos, last week or the week before. We had posters everywhere, but we were shitting ourselves a bit, like, “What if nobody comes?”, but everybody came, which was class.
DB: It was something like six people off capacity, and it was our headlining show, which is a big deal. It wasn’t our only ever sold out show, but it was the only sold out show that we were headlining. We’ve played sold out shows supporting and stuff, but that different because it was ours. For me, when we played in Manchester, that was the bee’s knees. We weren’t headlining, but we were playing in Aatma-
DL: It was the most non-venue venue that we’ve ever played. It was all boarded up, and you went in an alleyway, and then an even narrower alleyway, and then a fire exit. We were standing outside, asking people, “Do you know where Aatma is?”, and they were like, “Yeah, through that door.”.
DB: It was decent, and we were supporting D.O.A.- they were the first band to ever be called hardcore.

DL: It was over capacity by a hundred and five people, and capacity was maybe eighty five people, so it was a real mess.
DB: Headlining Whelan’s was a great gig too- we were playing the small room, and it’s some spot. We’d played Cork with a band called Fangclub from Dublin, and they were nice guys, so they gave us the name of the guy to get.
DL: There were about a hundred and fifty people there, so it wasn’t like the wee room in Sandinos!

DH: What about your worst gig?
DL: There’s never a bad gig. Sometimes there’s a bad crowd- one time we played at a festival to two people- but that was still one of the best gigs ever.
DB: I’ve never played on that I’d call a bad gig, because-
DL: At the end of the day, we’re still playing somewhere, and that’s what we want to do. So there have been gigs that have been badly run-
DB: Everything could go to shit; we might not have been paid, there might have been nobody there, or everybody might have been a shit, but-
DL: Sometimes all those things happen at the same gig, and it still wouldn’t be a bad show. All gigs are the best gigs- you’ve got to enjoy yourself!

DH: What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of making music?
DL: Probably getting people on board, sometimes, but not so much live, because everyone’s into- especially in Derry- music, but there’s not so many people into our kind of thing, but it seems like people are coming round and getting into heavier stuff. Maybe I’m wrong, but it does seem to be coming back- before, people who would listen to the music that we like would maybe just have sat in the house when we were playing, but now they’re coming to our shows, which is great.

DH: What was the first song that you ever learned to play?
DL: I played piano first, but that doesn’t count, because I didn’t really play songs, but on guitar I learnt “Time For Heroes” by the Libertines. I still don’t know many songs on bass- I’ve only played bass with Lost Avenue, and I only play it at practice- I don’t play it in between, but we practice so much that it doesn’t really matter, and it’s not worth my while taking my stuff home like!

DB: I learnt “One” by Metallica, but I probably couldn’t play it now.
DL: I used to always play covers before I was in a band; I’d just sit in my room and play all this stuff that I definitely couldn’t play now.
DB: I never like playing other people’s songs. We’d be the worst cover band in the world.
DL: Some days at practice, we’ll be messing around and be like, “Ah, we’ll play that!”, and then we can’t, so we just go back to all the Lost Avenue stuff.

DH: What are you currently listening to?
DL: Shite. No Means No, Descendents, Fugazi.
DB: At the minute, I’m listening to At The Drive-In a lot, because of the reunion and all. I still listen to blink-182 all the time- no shame.
DL: Smashing Pumpkins as well.
DB: Yeah, Smashing Pumpkins. The newest album is good; some of the stuff on the album is quite like Machina, but there’s one tune on the album called “One And All”- it’s just so Mellon Collie, which is good.
DL: Dirty guitar and dirty bass- it’s so grungy.
DB: Mellon Collie’s just unbelievable. Adore too- I think it’s so underappreciated.

DL: Siamese Dream too, it’s briliiant. “Mayonaise” is probably one of my favourite songs of all time.
DB: A bit of Guns N’ Roses too. I’ve been listening to the Use Your Illusion albums again-
DL: They’re class.
DB: A bit of Fall Out Boy too, actually. Just before we started tracking in here, in the week running up, every day after we practised- we pretty much practised constantly- we’d sit in the practice room when we were done and go round the house and play every CD, just to see what sounds good. So we ended up listening to everything, in my room with all the CDs from like, primary school, lying, so “From Under the Cork Tree” and stuff.

DL: Every blink album.
DB: That, and the new Pixies’ album- I think “Indy Cindy” is great.
DL: We listened to a load of different things, because we wanted to figure out how this would sound.
DB: We listened to a lot of Jetplane (Landing), actually.
DL: Yeah, Dylan got me a Jetplane CD for my birthday. I mean, the singer’s downstairs- it’s so weird.
DB: It’s not weird- you’re not like a fan girl or something!
DL: No, it is weird! It’s strange to think that on the way up in the car, I was listening to Jetplane, and I was for walking into Jetplane’s building .

DH: Is there anything that you wish I’d asked?
DL: Ah, stuff on direct influences?

DH: Go for it!

DB: For me, probably in terms of lyrics- Billy Corgan, big time. Black Francis, when it comes to lyrics too- they’re both geniuses. Even in the way he (Francis) is singing. We were sitting- last night or the night before?- listening to Doolittle. Axl Rose, just as a singer- like it makes me want to be better. I think, in terms of guitar- Tom DeLonge. See if you listen to their self-titled album? There’s a lot of good stuff on that. All round, and as a performer, Laura Jane Grace from Against Me!. She’s unbelievable; I’d say she’s my favourite all-round performer. They’re one of my favourite bands of all time.

DL: For me, Rob Wright from No Means No. Big, dirty bass tones-that’s where we got the idea to use the guitar head. All the bass players that were in Descendents; all of them were amazing.
DB: The first one was the best.
DL: Tony Lombardo, wasn’t it? He was class. But yeah, that’s probably it. Michael would probably have said, for him, Travis Barker.

DB: Yeah, blink-182 and hip-hop. He loves hip-hop. I’m not really that into it, but it’s his thing. Classic rock, too.
DL: Yeah, John Bonham. And Atom Willard, from Against Me!. He did some stuff for the Offspring and on Weezer’s green album, so he’d be another one.

You can now stream Lost Avenue’s EP “Daggers”here: https://soundcloud.com/lostavenueofficial

You can also keep up with them on the following channels.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lostavenue/

Twitter: @wearelostavenue

Instagram: @wearelostavenue

 

Exclusive: The Autocratic’s debut single, “Beluga”

The Autocratic’s debut single, “Beluga”, is a highly promising release, with a seismic whopper of a riff and a pounding pace that will have you air drumming for days.

Consisting of Connall Ennis (bass and lead vocals), Odhran Bryson (guitar and backing vocals), and Conor O’Kane (drums and backing vocals, the alt-rock trio have spent the last few months making waves and playing gigs in and around their native North Coast.

Evocative of old school Arctic Monkeys by way of ‘80s surf-punk, “Beluga” is an undoubtedly killer tune, practically spilling over with meandering basslines, mean vocals and some superlative shredding. Going on this incredible initial track, The Autocratic will definitely be worth watching in the coming months, so if unconventional takes on traditional rock structures and contagious choruses sound like your kind of thing, you’d better get on board.

Beluga is now available to stream exclusively on Deadheading.

Interview: East India Youth

Deadheading got to talk to William Doyle of East India Youth before his first show in Belfast about playing his last “Culture of Volume” shows, Brian Eno, and gardening.

DH: What’s your favourite song to play live?

WD: “Hinterland”, probably. It’s a bit obvious, maybe, but it’s like the dance peak of the set, and I’ve worked out a way to play it that it’s kind of different every time. It’s a very malleable thing- some of the songs are a bit more rigid, and that’s fine, but with “Hinterland” I’ve gotten to that point of the set where I can just let go and sort of enjoy it, I think it makes a big difference, so that’s always going to be my favourite to play. It really gets the blood pumping, so yeah.

DH: Are you sick of playing “Culture of Volume” yet, and do you find that having to continually engage with each song has changed how you perceive them?

WD: I am, yeah. It’s been so long now; the first album came out the year before last, and it was about a year before “Culture of Volume” came out, so it’s just been non-stop touring. I’m not bored or sick of it, I’m just having to invent new ways to make it interesting again, I think, and it’s getting harder and harder as the tour sort of winds down. I’ve been doing this version of the set for a year, like what with the gear and stuff I’ve got on stage, so it’s time for a change, but it’s a bit late in the day to bring in a massive C change now.

I was sound checking some of my old songs that I haven’t played for a while today, but it didn’t feel right. There’s always a mixture of the two records, but I was going to play the “Total Strife Forever”, the sweeps, the instrumental strings, but it’s not quite where I thought it was. I haven’t played it in a year and a half, maybe, so I’m a little bit rusty with it, but I’m quite keen to bring back that part of what I do, just offset the pop moments with something that bit more abrasive.

I just think that the pop thing hasn’t worked out as well as they thought it would. I love pop music, and I always think there will be a melodic focus to what I’m doing, and I just thought after working on things that would become “Culture of Volume”, it was like, oh, it seems like it’s becoming more of a vocal-led album and it’s more pop-focused, but the longevity hasn’t really been there with the material in quite the same way.

In terms of how I feel about the material, I feel there’s some moments of “Culture of Volume” that I love, and there’s other moments that really aren’t doing it for me any more. Like “Beaming White”, it just seems like this empty shell of a song to me. I think that one was the main pop experiment, and I wanted to do a Pet Shop Boys sort of thing, and I think it worked, but what it’s loosely about doesn’t really hold much of my interest now.

With “Culture of Volume”, I don’t really feel like the person that made that album any more, even though the period during making “Total Strife Forever” was much weirder and more emotionally ridiculous, I feel like it’s closer to my intentions generally. The thing is, the idea that every statement you make artistically is this definitive thing that you have to stand by forever is kind of crazy, you know, your feelings develop, so I might feel differently about that.

I went through a bit of a rut with “Total Strife Forever” for a while, and I guess your opinions change and playing things live over and over again, they develop in different ways. I’m all about having a relationship with the songs; they’re not just this passive blob of a thing.

Maybe not with “Culture of Volume”, because I think it’s still too new to have that distance from it. “Total Strife Forever” has renewed itself in ways I didn’t think it was going to. There were songs like “Turn Away” that I feel, like, some of the lyrics were things came true after I’d written it, rather than things that happened while I was writing it, which is a bizarre thing to happen, but it happened a couple of times with that album, and maybe that’s why I have this weird emotional relationship with it, because “Total Strife Forever” was all about that moment and what happened prior to it, whereas “Culture of Volume” still feels like it predicted things going forward.

You can’t not draw from personal experience- I don’t write fiction or narrative based stuff, but obviously I don’t really like to ascribe one song as being this particular moment or memory or person or whatever, like they’re influenced by those things, but they’re a bit more abstract in that, I think that’s what I wanted to do. You paint an atmosphere rather than try to capture a specific moment, maybe.

DH: Do you find that you approach writing with more of an ambient sensibility than anything else?

WD: Yeah, for me, it’s all about creating an environment. Eno’s always a good example of someone who’s able to create an environment with what they do. Everything’s interpreted by people, and that’s what it’s there for rather than you forcing a meaning onto someone else, you give them enough tools and they’re able to build this environment themselves, so that’s more exciting to me.

DH: What made you decide to add vocals to “Culture of Volume”?

WD: Playing live, and getting more comfortable with my voice and enjoying that aspect of it, and in the next one too, you know you’re going to end up touring the next thing for a year or however long, and I wanted to convey that a bit more live. It was a challenge as well; I pushed my voice a lot more than I did previously. It’s just grown into this thing that I didn’t really think it would, like I love singing, it’s one of my favourite things to do, so I just wanted to create more opportunities for me to do it, I guess.

DH: What comes first when you write songs, the lyrics or the melody?

WD: Melody, always. I hated putting lyrics to songs before, but I’ve worked out a new way to do it; because I haven’t been able to write too much music on the road, I’ve been writing a lot more poems and stuff like that, and I’ve been training my brain to write things down within that form, and you start to worry less about rhythm and rhyme and stuff like that. The words are more important, so I’ve been writing them first and then fitting them before I’ve even written the rest of the song sometimes. It’s just attacking it from a different side, it’s been so much more enjoyable lately, and the words are so much better at the moment, so that’s good. I’m glad I’ve been able to figure that one out because I really hated writing the lyrics sometimes.

I got most stuck on “Beaming White”, and maybe that’s it, it’s always the easiest songs that flow out of you, like “Heaven How Long” and “Carousel” are my two favourite songs of mine, in terms of everything they give, and they’re the ones that happened the easiest, I suppose.
Things change so much anyway- sometimes the song has been written and then the arrangement changes or maybe it becomes a different style of track, so I don’t know, it’s a fluid thing.

DH: How much do you use oblique strategising as a means of writing?

WD: Not very much. I actually told Eno that I don’t find it that helpful! They’re interesting, and I think as time’s gone on I’ve employed them more than I would have otherwise, but I think they’re things that I memorise, but when you use them in the traditional way and pull them out randomly, I actually don’t find them that helpful then, I find them frustrating, because it’s sometimes like, “Go outside and shut the door.”, and I know it’s meant to promote lateral thinking, but I can’t really interpret that one.

Some of them have made a lot more sense to me over time; at the moment what we do in my house, I stick them on the front porch, and when you open the front door there’s two doors that go into the living room, so we’ve got one on each door at the moment, so we shift them around a bit, and when you come in you think about them , and they’ve helped more in terms of that, but I didn’t use them a lot during “Culture of Volume”.

DH: You met Brian Eno. How did you find that experience?

WD: It doesn’t really get much better than that for me. In terms of people, I think I’ve learnt more from him than from any other artist, you know, from reading their interviews and getting into their music and stuff like that, so that was kind of it for me, but then again, it’s always the people that you don’t expect to have an impact on you that do.

DH: I hadn’t realised that you play everything yourself during live shows. Do you find it liberating or frustrating to be the only one on stage?

WD: The more into it you get, the more you forget that you’re the only person up there. It depends how well the show is going really, if the crowd are into it then I find myself in my own space, and it doesn’t make much difference that there aren’t any other people up there. There’s a lot to do, but you get used to it. It took some time initially, especially with the set up that we’ve got now- I think we debuted this set up this time last year, so we’ve just been doing that, but at that point it was like, “There’s so much to do, there’s drum bits here, and bass guitar!”- but now it’s more like second nature, and I enjoy it a bit more, but I think it’s always important to keep changing it up. The next record will be a different thing; there might be other musicians as well, but I think that’s going to take a long time to come together, as I haven’t formed a super group in my head yet, so we’ll see how it goes.

DH: What are you planning to do with your time off?

WD: Carry on working actually, but just not touring. I’m setting up some collaborations at the moment, writing with other people, trying to do bits and pieces like that, but I’m doing all the visuals myself for the next project, so it’s going to take a while, because I’m out of my depth with that stuff. I don’t know what I’m doing with it, so I’m taking a year to do it, so yeah, maybe I’ll actually go on a holiday or something like that, but that seems like a weird idea- it’d be nice to go somewhere on holiday rather than go there to play a gig.

DH: You were previously a member of “Doyle and the Fourfathers”. Do you miss being in a band?

WD: No. I mean, I miss the guys, but I don’t miss being in that band. I miss playing with other musicians regularly, like that is an exciting thing to do, and it’s a shame that I haven’t been able to work that into what I do now, but it’s a necessity really. Like I say, hopefully I will be doing more of that. But no, I think the problem with that band is, and any band you’re in your teens, it was like, “We’re going to get signed!”, and all that, and there’s an aspiration to do those things, which is great, because that keeps you going, but also you miss the point as to what’s enjoyable.

If I was to do something like that now, it would have to be more of a non-committal thing, and I’d have to enjoy doing it, because I just stopped enjoying being in a band, but I do miss playing with people. With that band, I was 18 or 19, and it was all ego- like you don’t realise it at the time, but when you grow up you realise how stupid you might have been at some points, but I’m over that now.

DH: What was the first song that you ever learnt to play?

WD: I started off on violin actually, because it was available to learn at school. I guess it gave me that basic knowledge of frets to transfer onto guitar. I couldn’t play it now, but I think it was Scarborough Fair (on the violin), but the first song that I learnt on guitar was probably Green Day or something.

DH: What would you be doing if you weren’t playing music professionally?

WD: A gardener. Some friends asked me this recently, because it was part of a conversation that we were having, so I don’t know, there’s something similar between cultivating something and trying to put beautiful things out into the world, which is what I think you’re always trying to do with making art, but there’s less judgement with gardening- like, no one’s going to have a go at you on Twitter, or at least if they did, you’d have to respect them for it.

DH: Do you find that using software helps or inhibits the creative process?

WD: Helps, but only because I’m used to it. I’ve been playing with it for like ten years now, since I was fourteen or fifteen, I just had some software and didn’t really know what I was doing, so I started off with and still love Cubase. It’s through necessity that you learn it, so I now find it easy to translate ideas into reality using software. I’m not really a hardware or gear person, like I don’t own any synthesisers really and I’m not interested in doing it. Ryan (Vail) was talking to me about the gear that he’s got set up on stage, and I’m like, “It looks cool to do me, and this can do some cool stuff!”, but I’m just not really interested in it. I don’t even consider myself as an electronic musician really, I think of myself as a songwriter, I suppose, and I’ve used electronic music as the vehicle for that.

DH: When did you first get into electronic music?

WD: Just through playing with software and stuff, really, I just happened upon electronic sounds. I didn’t really listen to electronic music at the time- maybe it was Beck or someone like that, or the idea of all that overlay and sampling and stuff like that, it came more through that. I mean “(Midnite) Vultures” is quite an electronic record in itself as well, and “The Information” was too, but there wasn’t a particular moment. I mean, I’ve had plenty of epiphanies with it, but I don’t think of it as being electronic music always, because I don’t really think of Eno as being wholly electronic- he’s an artist who uses synthesis and stuff, but I don’t think of it as being electronic. I think we’re able to use software in a way to build error into things now, and that gives it this human quality. I think building that into it is important to do always, because it creates interesting, unpredictable moments, and that’s what leads you to conclusions, and that’s what makes things sound human when you’re dealing with electronic music and synthesis and software.

DH: What’s been the most frustrating aspect of being a musician professionally?

WD: Touring. I enjoy it, and you make it work for you, definitely, but I’ve found it frustrating in the last year or so that I haven’t been able to write or create on the road, and like, you fly into somewhere the day before the show, you play the show, and you fly back out afterwards, and it takes you three days to do one gig, and I can’t do any other work, and you barely see any of the places that you go to.

I don’t like to be moaning, because I do get to go to such incredible places and meet brilliant people and play to wonderful audiences, and that’s the best part of it, but sometimes the more tedious parts do start to outweigh all that. But it’s just another creative challenge to be able to solve, “How can you make this interesting for yourself?”, so we just try to go and see as much as we can whenever we can, eat interesting food and try interesting beers and whatever. We’ve had an amazing time the last three years, touring together, but it’s just that the touring doesn’t always agree with what I want to do creatively.

DH: What are you listening to at the minute?

WD: I had a good listen to “Blackstar” today. It’s really good, it’s brilliant. It’s a shame that he didn’t release more weird stuff like that until the end, because it had so much to offer, it’s a really strange album. Like “The Next Day” had some weird parts, but it was straightforward, and this has atonal sax solos, and the phrasing of the vocal is completely off from what’s happening in the rhythm section, but it’s just a really dense and beautiful thing, and it feels like a shame that he wasn’t doing more of that. No one’s made a record that sounds like that.

So that mainly, at the moment going back to an album called “Quarantine” by Laurel Halo, she’s amazing, she’s one of the best, and that album especially has been one of the most important records for me the last few years, so I gave it a bit of a break, but it’s an amazing record, and it’s got one of the best album covers that I’ve ever seen. It’s quite a weird record, but it’s incredible.

DH:Is there anything that you wish I’d asked you?

WD: Eh, no. Don’t think so!

You can buy Culture of Volume at http://eastindiayouth.co.uk/ and catch East India Youth’s last Irish performance until 2017 at the Button Factory in Dublin.

Interview: Daveit Ferris

Deadheading was thrilled to catch up with the creative powerhouse that is Daveit Ferris to talk about his latest (and naturally, colossal) project, 365 Sparks, in which he will release an original song for every day of 2015.

DH: What appealed most to you about the idea of 365 Sparks?

DF: The grandiosity and sheer scale, knowing it’s a unique project, the
challenge itself and knowing I’d better myself in a lot of different music related
facets. To be honest, absolutely everything was appealing about it
and I was as excited as a little kid at Christmas whilst assembling all the
ideas for it in the early planning stages circa November 2013. I’ve always
written an absolute tonne of songs but I’ve never been as prolific as I’d
like to be on the recording side. I’ve lost hundreds of songs simply by
never recording or writing them down, and eventually I wound up
forgetting they ever existed. It simply was time for me to live up to my
potential and do something really BIG.

DH: What made you decide to make it a reality?

DF: Coming close to dying in October 2013 with something called Supraglottitis
completely changed my outlook on life. I know that sounds as cliched as a
Nicholas Sparks movie, but it’s the first time I’ve ever truly been close to not
existing. Prior to this happening, I’d almost convinced myself that I had all
the time in the world to finish my collection of projects and as a result, I have
hoarded hundreds of half-written scripts, almost-completed novels, poetry
books, websites, graphic books, etc… that are soundly asleep on various hard
drives. This incident made me realise that my life is totally finite and I need
to be completing these projects and not half-doing 50 at one time. I decided
that my next project would be my sole focus and I’d complete it before giving
my full attention to the next thing.

DH: Do you like the independence that comes with releasing and distributing
these songs by yourself?

DF: I decided from the planning stage that I wanted this project to be completely
DIY. There was no bravado or arrogance involved in this decision, just a
realisation that I could and therefore I should. Also, due to the time sensitive
nature of the project, I didn’t want to be involving other folks just in case of
cancellations and postponements. I’ve always been happiest when in full
control of my creative output, so meandering down that independence line is
very comfortable at this stage. I’m obviously biased, but I’d question
musicians who are happy to relinquish control of any side of their output
without being involved in some capacity – from the songs and mixing, to the
artwork and website design- all those things are extremely important to at
least be a small bit involved in.

DH: All of the songs contain autobiographical elements, but to varying degrees: do you find it difficult to determine what you are comfortable sharing with
the public? Is it hard to draw a line?

DF: When I look back at my lyrics in all my previous bands, it’s abundantly clear
that I was not comfortable singing about myself at all. Almost all my
previous lyrics were peppered with artistic jargon that just served to mask
that they were all about me in some shape or form. ‘Write REAL lyrics’ was
actually one of the lines that I scribbled on my whiteboard before I started
the project, so it was a conscious decision to not conceal my true feelings,
ideas and stories under a smorgasbord of clever words and witty phrases- I
really wanted to be open about everything. I touch on depression, cancer,
rejection, family matters, anger- there’s no way I could have done that
before this turning point in my life- 365 Sparks could have only happened in
2014/2015 because until then, I simply wasn’t ready to be honest, lyrically.

There were lines that I did eventually redact, but literally the only time this
happened was when I felt that the person I was writing about might take
offence and be hurt by my words or memory- there’s always other options in
songwriting and sometime the punk-rock thing to do is not be a dick for the
sake of being a dick.

DH: When you could have focused on any number of creative ventures (for
instance, your poetry) why did you decide to prioritise 365 Sparks?

DF: Poetry poses absolutely no challenge to me at this point and I’m sure there’s
good folks reading this that will feel the same way. Don’t get me wrong, I
love writing poetry and still do very frequently, but it doesn’t enthrall me the
way songwriting and recording do. Before settling on 365 Sparks, I was
planning on making an indie film. I know that sounds as pretentious as hell,
mainly because I don’t know the first thing about how to do this- but that’s
what I’m all about. I wanted to go out and learn a completely different set of
skills and exist in a completely separate universe than the musical one I’ve
always known. I haven’t given up this idea though and was pleasantly happy
with the material I developed during those few months… Never say never!
I’m just one of those guys who wants to be on his deathbed knowing he’s
created music, poetry, books, films, websites etc etc- as opposed to just lots
of music- you know?

DH: Do you actively seek inspiration for your songs, or are you more spontaneous in your approach to writing?

DF: Honestly, I don’t really make concrete plans to sit down and write all that
much. I know that’s laughable coming from me of all people, but generally
my only struggle is choosing what I’ll write about as I usually either want to
write about butterflies fighting volcanoes or clocks pretending they can
speak Latin. I don’t recall ever trying to specifically coax inspiration from
the world to inspire a song, but I have paused movies hundreds of times in
my life in order to write a song about a new feeling that came from that
moment. I’m inspired by absolutely everything about our world. I find that
when I feel like writing that I have ample topics to spin words around. I’m
just always receptive to being creative and that keeps me away from the
dark gloom of writer’s block- besides, I’m one of the few that believes you
should write your way out of writers block – as confusing as that may seem!

DH: Is it difficult for you to write about personal matters?

DF: It used to be impossible. I think when we’re younger, we’re all trying to
cover the flaws and pretend we’re basically perfect- and whilst that facade
can work for a short time, it’s a tough world to live in and stay connected
with. My remedy for this in the past was basically to sing about other people
as opposed to, ‘Here are my feelings about ..’- I just didn’t want to be
perceived as weak for doing so. That’s early 20’s, now in my very late 20’s
it’s a completely different story. I actually enjoy the songs in which I’m
talking about really personal stuff, and those will likely be the songs I carry
forward from this project and play in a live setting because I can feel a small
electric buzz on my bones each time I sing them. I wish I could have gotten to
the honesty stage in my music a long time ago, but it just took me longer than
most to destroy that wall and expose my flaws for all to see.

DH: What comes first: the lyrics, or the music?

DF: It changes so frequently that it’s impossible to answer. At this point in my
creative life, I’ve written a song pretty much every single way one could’ve
been written. Both have pros and cons. I love writing lyrics first because I
usually end up with alternating melodies due to the uneven syllable count on
the lines, this means that each line usually has something the previous
didn’t, and that can keep the listener’s attention a lot more vs a completely
symmetrical set of melodies perpetually grinding away. Writing music first
can be fantastic too though, because on something like ‘Animal
Liberation’ [which is rock-metal riffs galore], I just decided to riff it up from
the start and not even stop to consider the vocals. When it came time to lay
down some vocals, I had no choice but to find something that fit because the
music was already complete, this alone threw me in a new direction.

DH: Has your song writing process changed much since this project?

DF: My songwriting process, editing, arranging, mixing, mastering [and 1,000
other relevant things]… have all improved 100x within this single project.
Those all are positive outcomes I was hoping to get from doing this so
intensely for two years, so it’s worked out nicely. In terms of writing, I’ve
pushed myself down roads I’d never have gone down before simply because I
didn’t want to write 365 rock songs. It was not only fun, but very
interesting to see a whole different side to music. I’m way more interested in
electronic music than I was when I started because I listened to a lot for
sonic inspiration during 2014.

DH: Have you ever written anything and felt that you couldn’t release it?

DF: Within this project? Sure. In letting my lyrical guard down for these 365
songs, there were definitely moments when the guard completely fell and
exposed things a little too much. I became too open in songs and as a result I
did scrap a lot of lyrics and start new ideas where their ghosts were. As
someone who has always added a protective atmosphere above their lyrical
intention, this was brand new ground and I needed to dig into that soil and
truly find the depths before I could settle on a comfortable place that slept in between honesty and personal comfortability.

DH: You previously enjoyed success with bands such as The Mascara Story and
Telephone Bruises. Do you miss being part of a band? Is it something that
you would ever consider doing again?

DF: A band in it’s organic state is not something I’d be interested in doing at this
point. I don’t really feel designed to be an equal music shareholder in a
collective creative endeavour. I’m so intense about music that it has made
former members uncomfortable. As i alluded to earlier, I like to have my
hands in all facets of what a band is, from the writing, to production, to the
graphics and website- I don’t really leave much room for other opinions
because of that. I don’t apologise for being this way and I couldn’t change my
behaviours even if I wanted to – but I definitely can appreciate that this setup
wouldn’t be ideal for other musicians. I mean, I am the guy that left an
early band simply because the band already had it’s main songwriter and I
wanted to have my songs heard- so i can hardly speak negatively about this.

There’s nothing I love more than seeing bands that are all great friends and
truly sharing something special together – in fact, I envy that a lot – but it’s
just not how it’ll work with me and history shows that, many times over. To
be completely frank, i have outworked and out-passioned every musician
I’ve ever worked with and most of them have told me as much, so I don’t feel
bad repeating this to you. This isn’t to say I’m even in the top 5 ‘most
talented’ of those aforementioned, but my intensity has been there from the
very first day. I mention this because I’m resigned to the fact that I’m not
going to find another ‘me’ with that matching intensity, and more to the
point, it’s not fair on me to judge others based upon my intensity- it just
can’t work that way anymore. When I do eventually get a new band together,
it will be musicians hired to help me bring my music live. Think of the way
Dashboard Confessional, The Rocket Summer and even John Mayer work-
it’s just one person with a changing sideshow of wonderful musicians
helping to bring their sound to the stage. I have huge respect for
collaborating bands- I don’t want to be seen as bagging them all just because
it doesn’t work for me- it’s just not the right fit for me and that’s why I’m
exploring a different avenue this time around.

DH: Was it always important to you that you released your music under your real name?

DF: Not at all. In fact, it was totally accidental. My idea was always to use my
name as my central hub of creativity and rebrand all my creative
departments as something different. The moment it changed was in
mid-2007 when I was trying to make a band called ‘Telephone Bruises’ work
out. It simply wasn’t working despite a lot of effort. So instead of moping
around, I wrote 10 songs, booked a studio in Lisburn and moved down there
for a week to record a new album. The only instrument I didn’t play was the
drums, I hired a session drummer for that. I showed the ‘Telephone Bruises’
members my finished album and it got approval from them all. I decided to
brand the release as Telephone Bruises even though no member other than
myself had any involvement. I saw it as a kickstarter to help the band find
their buzz and to have something to build upon; but it didn’t really change
anything internally. Ultimately i wound up rebranding it under my own
name as initially intended and that kickstarted the ‘solo’ era for me. The
next year, I released five solo albums and my first poetry book; so you could
say it felt really great to be working at the creative level I wanted to for such
a long time.

DH: Are you planning on recreating any of the songs from 365 Sparks live?

DF: Absolutely. My plan is to hire a live band to help me bring the best of the
music live. I’m going to call it 365-alive – did you see what I did there? The
great thing about having done so much music is that there’s not a looming
deadline for playing live, you know? When bands release a 4-track EP in
January, they kind-of have to be out playing in January- I don’t feel that
pressure due to the sheer amount I’ve released, and that’s cool. I have missed
playing live a lot over this last year – and that’s really been some of the first
times I’ve yearned to be back on stage since the Mascara Story days. It’s a
new feeling. I think it stems from confidence in my new work and new found
confidence in myself as a person, not a musician, but as a person. I love that I
have enough songs from this project to do a rock set or an acoustic set of
completely different material- that’s exciting for me. But how in the world
am I going to choose that first setlist? Paper in a top hat?

DH: How important is creative control to you?

DF: It’s critically important. I want my work to represent me fully. I’ve talked
about it before in interviews, but it’s so vital. There almost seems to be a
stigma around folks like myself who want to have a hand in every single
aspect of their output- that we’re arrogant, egotistical and narcissistic- I see
it very differently and think we’re just hard workers. Just to be clear, I’m
not saying that if you literally have never used Photoshop before, that you
should make your album cover in Microsoft Paint and release it to the world- being DIY extends to being the one delegating other creative and talented
people in various roles, and you’re still involved in the process. There’s a
hundred things I’d hire someone to do before doing it myself. I think too
many musicians give themselves a get-out-of-jail-free card and then go and
spend the rest of the week with their x-box. I’m not preaching from my
soapbox here, but I’ve seen this happen and heard it happen a lot.

DH: Did you feel a significant amount of pressure (due to the scale of 365 Sparks) whilst writing, or was it an enjoyable experience?

DF: Songwriting is my passion, so I’m always happy when I’m working on
creating something new in that realm. I’ve written thousands of pieces over
the years so I knew I’d not falter in regards to the writing component of the
project. The recording side was where my self-doubt lay as although I’ve
recorded myself before, I’ve never really brought it to this level before.
There was a lot to learn and I’m still learning all the time, but there’s enough
there that I’m constantly interesting in learning. The writing was a really
enjoyable experience, except for the days when the sun was melting the
streets and i was stuck in my studio couch trying to come up with something
new whilst having heat stroke. Fun!

DH: What was the most difficult aspect of this project (either personally, or as an artist) for you?

DF: It was incredibly, incredibly stressful. It’s impossible to feel progress is
being made when the goal is so huge. I remember finishing my 10th song and
thinking, ‘Wow! that’s an album already’… then I panicked when I realised
there was 355 songs to go- it just seemed like a huge mountain to climb.
There were times it seemed insurmountable and a few times I felt like
throwing in the towel and just admitting defeat, but they were few and far
between and all i needed was to escape the studio for a few hours to reset my
focus and recharge my batteries. The only other thing I’d mention is that it
got very lonely after a while. As much as it was my design for this to be a DIY
project, it just became emotionally lonely to see no other humans for most of
the day, every day, all year. That was tough after a few months and never got
any easier.

DH: At what point in your life did you begin to take song writing seriously?

DF: There’s a story behind this and I touched upon it a little earlier with you. My
first real proper band was called ‘FutureReal’. I was singing for a school
band for fun when the guys from FutureReal heard me singing at an end-of-year
concert for the entire school. They were planning on replacing their
singer as it turned out and so, I got the job. I was super buzzed at this
opportunity and intent on making the most of it. I was around 15 at the time
and solely just the singer of the band. We’d rehearse often and play live
shows often and I was obsessed with the mechanics of the band. I got bought
an electric guitar for my birthday and was instantly obsessed with it. I took
a different route to other guitarists I knew, in that I taught myself from day
one [pre-having internet at home/YouTube] and that I only ever worked on
my own songs rather than learn the usual classics.

After a year+ of writing these songs, I felt confident enough to take some ideas to the band in the
hopes that we could integrate some of my songs into the set. I felt that a lot of
them had potential. However, I was told on multiple occasions that the band
had a primary songwriter and that was that. This really gave me no other
option but to leave the band because my writing was improving week by
week and i knew it was only a matter of time before I was writing brilliant
songs as opposed to good songs. I’ve been obsessed with the art ever since.

DH: Will music always be your primary focus?

DF: Possibly. Probably not in terms of the ‘artist’ angle, but more likely as a
writer or producer or something of that nature. The problem with the artist
angle is that it’s so damn unsustainable as a ‘career’ that it’s not clever to
put all your eggs in that basket anymore. It’s becoming harder and harder to
monetise music and the marketplace is becoming saturated with so much
noise that although the digital opportunities are 1000x better than they
were ten years ago … there’s also 1000x the amount of bands vying for those
spots and that attention. It’s really cut-throat. To be absolutely honest, the
other angles I mentioned are very exciting to me. I really want to push to get
into that writing circle of names that decorate the back of album booklets
and have already made some solid connections in that field. Likewise, I’ve
totally fallen head over heels with audio production and I’d love to start
producing albums by other bands once I get myself a larger studio space. I’m
confident I’ll forever exist doing something related to music – it’s where my
heart sleeps.

DH: Was a career in music always your end goal?

DF: Oh, for sure. When I was a kid I had a lot of fleeting passions; wrestling,
football, snooker… but once I really got into music I was obsessed every day.
I remember being introduced to so many great rock records by my sister’s
boyfriend, Kevin. I’d often go down to their house and just sink into their
sofa whilst playing records all day long- there was no distractions other
than the lyric booklet in my paw- it was all about the music. I knew then
that whatever i did in life would have some connection to music.

DH: Overall, how did you find this project? Was it cathartic, frustrating, etc.?

DF: It was a little of everything. I had moments of euphoria listening back to
certain songs after struggling so hard to get them written and recorded. I
had moments where I thought this entire thing was too grandiose and I was
stupid to even try. I pretty much experienced the full range of emotional
colours throughout the year- I was expecting that though, obviously. I’ve
cried in certain moments, laughed hard in certain moments and I’ve thrown
things across the room in certain moments.

DH: Do you think that it has been a valuable process? Has it been as rewarding as you had anticipated/ what aspect of 365 Sparks have you found most
rewarding?

DF: It’s the best thing I have ever done as a human, period. If I died tomorrow,
I’ll be remembered for this project amongst those that knew me. I share
Ricky Gervais’ philosophy about work in that the work itself is the reward.
I’ve known what these songs have sounded like by December 31st 2014 and
that’s when the project was an absolute success to me – the completion.
Everything after that has been a bonus. I have a very small audience of folks
who’ve been listening away daily and I’ve gained hundreds of brand new
faces that’ve supported the project – it’s been amazing. I can only see it as
having been absolutely valuable to me and my creative life – it gives me great
sense of pride to think about it now.

DH: What was the first song that you wrote for 365 Sparks?

DF: I’m sure ‘Even Butterflies Lose’ was the very first song i wrote and recorded
for the project. This song was the inspiration for me to try so much harder. I
remember listening back and thinking ‘Okay, well, it’s not bad, but i need to
do so so much better than this’. I remember trying so hard to get everything
right on day #1 and in the end .. i got everything absolutely wrong and i was
thrown into severe dizziness. I used this first song as a template for weeks. I
spent every night for weeks messing around with compressors, eq’s, panning
etc just trying to teach myself how this song could have been better on a
sonic level – this helped me paint over the rookie mistakes. I’m happy my
first recording wasn’t anything special because it gave me a platform to
better myself from.

DH: How did you find disciplining yourself to write a song every day? Do you
think that it inhibited you in any way, or did the time constraints serve as a
creative catalyst of sorts?

DF: The acknowledgement of limited time is the single best motivator I’ve ever
found in my life – and I’m not just talking about music. The writing itself
wasn’t really a huge ask because i tend to write something every day
anyways, but having to write parts for drums, bass, multiple guitars, pianos
etc… really forced me to up my game. It was no longer a daily exercise of
getting an idea down on one acoustic guitar – it was about composing a fully fleshed
out song. I think the pressure helped me rather than hinder me for
95% of the time. The other 5% were days when I had appointments or had to
be somewhere else and was left with literally a few hours to write and record
something brand new- those times were stressful but in that kind of good
way.

DH: Do you find that there is a difference between what you initially intended to write and what you actually produce? If so, do you find that discouraging or liberating?

DF: Very often I’d assume what I was writing was a simple acoustic song only to
wind up with a full-blown rock track by the end of the day. The simplest
little things can derail that initial idea. Something like ‘Let this Love
Blackout’ was originally pretty fully-fleshed out as a song with lots of sound
layers, that was until I was listening to the vocals and acoustic in isolation to
ensure all the melodies were spot on- I just really dug what I heard and the
final version is devoid of everything except an acoustic and a voice.
Likewise, a song like ‘Now You’re Gone’ was intended to be a simple
acoustic/vocal song but completely grew into a full band song with drums,
bass, piano etc. In both cases, it was all justified around trying to do the best
by the song itself. I’m 50/50 between executing a clear vision and letting the
song tell me where it wants to go.

DH: Is there anything that you wish you had done differently (within 365
Sparks)?

DF: Lots of things. I wish I’d pushed more to make a documentary around the
process. I had actually put in a lot of ground work to make it happen and
even gone so far as to do screen tests, but it came down to two issues; time
and narrative. I was cognisant that watching just me in the same small
studio day-in-day-out mightn’t have been appeasing to an audience, but I
wish I’d recorded daily videos every single day simply for my own archives.
I just didn’t have any time spare to even think about it in the end and so i
can’t mourn it too much- it was a ‘nice to have’, not a ‘need to have’. In terms
of process, I wish I’d had a few more months to plan the entire thing, simply
because there were a few other song experiences I was planning in throwing
in but ultimately had to cut due to a lack of planning.

DH: Are you self-taught?

DF: Yes. My mother offered to pay for guitar lessons for me when she witnessed
me stick to the guitar for months and months but even as a 15 year old kid, i
chose not to go down that route. I decided early on that i wanted to be me –
even if that meant that I wasn’t as technically proficient as other guitarists i
knew at the time. Developing my own sound and style was pivotal to me
even when I was a kid and I’m so thankful to the 15 year old me for choosing
this route. I reveled in the challenge of not knowing too much because those
little serendipitous moments were special at the beginning. I didn’t see the
fun in learning theory when i just wanted to annoy the neighbours with buzz
saw riffs late into the night!

DH: What was the first song that you ever learned to play?

DF: Nothing sticks out simply because from the moment I had a guitar at my
disposal, I was writing my own little riffs and songs – even if they were god
awful. My friends at the time used to come over to my house and ask to hear
what I’d written that week in my little [school-stolen] orange workbook
because it was so commonplace for me to have written 5 or more songs
during the week even though I barely knew my instrument. So I guess to
answer, the first song I learned to play would have been one of my own, but I
couldn’t be more specific than that.

DH: At what point did you discover that you could sing (or did you always
know)?

DF: I never ever planned to be a ‘singer’ and I still don’t! There’s a funny story
about how I even got into my first school band. I’ll try and keep it as short as
possible. When I was around 15 or so, all my class minus me were being
briefed by our teacher about the school trip they were about to embark on
that day. I was left at school because i was ‘bad’ that week. Whatever. I was
at the back of the class listening to Bon Jovi on my Walkman and apparently
I started to sing along with one of the songs without realising it. Sean Keddy
[whom I’d later form Mascara Story with] heard me sing and then had it in
his head to have me sing for his school band at the time. I agreed when they
eventually asked me and that was that. I was now in a band and ready to
take over the … school! Singing was never a plan of mine and trust me, if you
heard my voice when my started out vs. my semi-good voice now… you’d
assume a miracle had taken place. I initially sounded like a cross between a
siren, Mariah Carey and a washing machine.

DH: How did you get into producing music?

DF: In technical terms, I’ve been producing music since I was probably 15.
Although back then it was direct-to-cassette [remember those?]. When I
started to get into music at school, we had little four-track recorders in our
class that fascinated me. I recorded on those a lot [my school still has those
tapes somewhere I’m sure… Eeek]. Me and Sean both bought cassette
recorders when we were about 16 so we could record musical ideas. I pretty
much wore mine out. I’d get home from school and record from 5-10pm
almost every night. I’m not going to state ANY of it was even good.. but I was
constantly working on my writing and recording every single moment. To
better answer your question though; the start of my ‘producing career’ was
in 2008 when I decided to do the solo thing and wound up releasing five
albums in the first year. I had literally a USB microphone, awful computer,
borrowed keyboard and an acoustic guitar – I made five records solely with
this gear.

It mightn’t sound sonically beautiful or professional, but those
albums contained songs that got airtime on a tonne of different radio
stations and as products they actually sold quite well. The reason why it took
me until 2014 to really start producing full-blown songs is because I was
using the time to build up my own studio and to actually learn about audio.
In 2013 i really felt like i could now produce songs at a sufficient quality to
release to the general public. I recorded a lot of songs in 2013 and they
sounded better every single time as I’d correct a rookie mistake from the
previous effort. I’d state 2014 as the year I really started getting into
producing. Oh sorry, I went off on a tangent there, to answer your question…
I got into producing for two reasons; 1) I genuinely wanted to learn that side
of the game because it fascinated me so much. 2) I simply couldn’t afford to
pay a studio every time I wanted to make recordings. It’s coming back to
that DIY/not waiting around attitude that I’ve tended to have forever.

DH: Your influences are very diverse. Were there any artists in particular that you found yourself listening to more whilst writing for this project?

DF: None that I overly magnetised to, but I made it a ‘thing’ to listen to a new
album every day I was recording and I still try to keep that up these days. I
was hoping that listening to symphonic music or reggae music would bring
out a whole new side of me… but I realised that my music is always going to
have some core component be strongly me. I’m fine with that though. I can
put my hand on my heart and say I’ve tried more new things in 2014
musically than i have in the preceding decade- that alone is a victory march
for me in terms of growth.

DH: What was the first album that you fell in love with?

DF: Silverchair- Neon Ballroom. That album literally defined the trajectory of
my life. I’d always adored music before hearing this record in 2000 or so, but
something about this album completely drew me in and filled me full of
wonder. It’s the album that changed me from a young singer in an upcoming
local band to a songwriter. This is the reason I have a portion of the album
cover tattooed on my body – it means that much. To be specific, ‘Ana’s Song’
from the aforementioned record hit me in a way no other song had ever been
able to. I was floored. I couldn’t believe music could give me shivers,
goosebumps and make me cry my eyes out at the same time. In reading into
the song in question, it only accentuated the tears because of how personal it
was. That album is the reason I am a songwriter. I owe it absolutely
everything. I’m still head over heels with it to this day and have yet to hear
an album i connect more with. It’s just perfect.

DH: Outside of music, what do you draw influence from (films, literature, art, etc.)?

DF: A few years ago I would have answered with films, but I’ve only watched a
handful of films from start to finish in the last few years. I much prefer
documentaries, especially those of the biographical kind because I find I can
use that information to better myself and there is real-world information to
be taken. I just realised how snotty that sounded, but it’s true. I still prefer
to read in the normal paperback way and [would you believe] I read pretty
much nothing but biographies. I really liked Steven Tyler’s book and Butch
Walker’s book, both of which I read again recently. Art [as in painting]
doesn’t really get me and never really has. I appreciate it for what it is, but
I’m not one of those that can go to an art gallery and feel floored – trust me,
I’ve tried on many occasions but always left a little wine-heavy but
inspiration-light. People are my biggest inspiration. I love just walking
around and people watching. We’re all just little ants meandering around
with our little different lives. People endlessly fascinate me.

DH: It is fair to say that 365 Sparks is a project of epic proportions. Do you think that you will ever undertake a project of a similar scale/nature again?

DF: I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, I do have grand visions for a future
project that would be on this level and that I think would be very unique and
interesting and on the other hand, I’m wary of a nervous breakdown and
losing even more hair! I don’t think I’d commit to releasing something-a-day-for-
a-year ever again because life is so unpredictable, as I’m finding out in the
latter half of this year. Problems come up, situations arise and people who
are expecting a song-a-day are left wondering, ‘Where’s the song?’. I can see
the finish line though and i haven’t messed up too badly yet…

DH: Do you have any plans (musical or otherwise) upon finishing 365 Sparks?

DF: Heartfuse is going to be my next large focus. It’s a company I’ve been toying
with for a long, long time. I’ve wanted to start a company since I was quite
young. Not a company only by name, but a fully-fledged operating and hiring
company for creatives to work within. It’s taken a long time for me to figure
out what I’d like to do and how I can make this possible but those ideas are
nearly at the fruition stage now and I couldn’t be any more excited and
scared at the same time. Hopefully it won’t be too long into 2016 before it’s
all up and running. Obviously I also intend on getting my 365 music out
there onto stages and that’s incredibly exciting. Other things I’m hoping to
accomplish: my first novel finally being released, perhaps another poetry
book and maybe even a short film.

DH: Have you found social media to be a useful platform, or more of a hindrance than a help?

DF: I have a love/hate relationship with social media and always have had. If
used by a musician/band as a measure of quality… then it’s going to be a
nightmare. It can be difficult to post a song you feel so proud of on social
media and see it inspire no interaction, and then post a funny meme and see
50 of your fans enjoying it and sharing it- you know? I never use it as a
measure of quality because it would kill me, and I’m sensitive enough as it
is! It’s great on the level that I can tweet a link to my music to the owner of a
major label and there’s a small chance he might click it and respond. So my
feet are firmly in the 50/50 column.

DH: What are you currently listening to?

DF: A lot of the Beach Boys / Daniel Johns / Green Day / Ryan Adams / My
Vitriol / Weezer and Fall Out Boy. I’ve been on such a nostalgia buzz these
last few weeks [I have one more month left before I hit 30 years old] that I’m
stuck on what I used to listen to over a decade ago. I’m looking forward to
getting 365 Sparks completed so I can start to treasure hunt for absolutely
brand new musicians and bands- it’s been a while since I’ve blindly done
that.

DH: If you could transcend space and time, what artist would you see live?

DF: Silverchair- especially now that they’ve effectively gone into a permanent
state of hibernation. Their performances around 1999/2000 on the Neon
Ballroom tour are still some of the best I’ve ever seen [on video]. Although
the subsequent tour for ‘Diorama’ was absolutely amazing too. I watch those
videos on YouTube all the time, so to have been present for one would have
been unbelievable. Honourable mentions would go to Nirvana on the
Nevermind junket, Green Day on the Dookie Junket and Bon Jovi on the
These Days Junket.

DH: Is there anything that you wish I’d asked?

DF: ‘How has the Nervous Breakdown been?’

You can stream and buy all of the songs from 365 Sparks at http://365sparks.com/ and you can check out more of Daveit’s music at http://daveitferris.com/music/

Live Review: And So I Watch You From Afar, 20th June

And So I Watch You From Afar, with support from Skymas
Saturday 20th June, 2015- The Mandela Hall, Belfast

The almighty And So I Watch You From Afar have just finished the first leg of their “Heirs” tour. Consisting of Niall Kennedy and Rory Friers (guitar), Johnny Adger (bass) and Chris Wee (drums), the instrumental four-piece are well on their way to world domination, and recently concluded their extensive string of European dates with a celebratory show at the Mandela Hall, which was their only Northern Irish show of 2015, marking June 20th as a date to be observed by anyone with even a fleeting interest in music.

Skymas, who took to the stage shortly after the arrival of the bus of ASIWYFA’s hometown supporters, seemed to be an anomalous choice of support, but as their set wore on, it became apparent that this was a decision influenced by their ability to work a crowd as opposed to genre constraints. Like a fusion of The Prodigy and Japanese Popstars, their energetic EDM-influenced stylings served to suitably enthuse the already dangerously swaying masses. Their furious basslines battled against simultaneously saturnine and searing synth sounds, which were in turn accompanied by disconcerting, constantly transmuting animations played on screens either side of the stage and enthusiastic vocal (and kinetic) delivery.

Although it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly the issue was (that being said, the thundering bass and the plethora of effects that were in use probably went some way towards muffling Corrigan’s acerbic vocals), the sound quality did not do what would otherwise have been a perfectly decent performance any favours; during “Hey Porter”, I heard “Paula”, whilst a girl behind me heard “Harry Potter” in a Cornish accent.

The interlude that follows means that by the time ASIWYFA, already looking triumphant (and justifiably so- the Mandela is close to capacity), decide to grace the stage, the crowd has reached fever pitch.
Opening with the first track of Heirs, “Run Home”, the intricacies and relentless energy of which elicited the most powerful reaction from the audience imaginable, it is evident that this show is going to be remembered as a highlight for the band and their fans alike. Without breaking for breath, they dive headlong into the unceasingly intense “Wasps”, with tumultuous guitars and gang vocals overlaying the rumblings and ruminations of the rhythm section.

The focus of the evening remained, for the most part, (and for fairly obvious reasons) on their incredible new album, “Heirs”, but interspersed throughout the set were some of their earlier songs, which were received appreciatively by their captive audience as they are now commonly regarded by most: as classics. “BEAUTIFULUNIVERSEMASTERCHAMPION” (I challenge you to type that without feeling a certain surge of adrenaline), “7 Billion People All Alive At Once”, and “Search:Party:Animal” in particular serve to cement the atmosphere as electric, and at more point than one, I am fairly certain that the barrier has become a permanent installation in my abdomen, such is the crushing and moshing going on behind me.

In between songs, it is touching to see that the band is visibly moved by the crowd’s fervent response, whilst Rory Friers takes the time out to pay collective and individual thanks to members of their team and fan base. This is a band that continues to be all about their fantastically loyal fan base, and it’s an indefatigable, almost familial relationship in which both sides just keep on giving; not counting those onstage, a surprising number of tattooed ASIWYFA logos were proudly displayed throughout the venue.

Just when it didn’t look like the emotions being experienced couldn’t be heightened any further, ASIWYFA had to go and make it even more poignant by inviting Ewen Friers (brother of Rory, and vocals/bass of Axis Of) to join them for a stirring rendition of “These Secret Kings I Know”. Followed by “A Little Bit of Solidarity Goes a Long Way”, all of the band’s astounding technical capabilities are fully utilised, with Niall Kennedy and Rory Friers’ joint excavation of octaves building on Johnny Adger’s blaring, pounding basslines and Chris Wee’s rolling demolition of the drum kit.

“A Beacon, A Compass, An Anchor” and “Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate” melded into one another, expansive in nature and spirited in delivery, the closing notes continuing to reverberate long after the band left the stage. There was disbelief amongst the crowd, who were astoundingly confident in an encore taking place; much to everyone’s relief, after a short break, ASIWYFA returned. Had they not, sweat-soaked riots en masse would surely have ensued.

“Eunoia” and “Big Thinks Do Remarkable” from “All Hail Bright Futures” were performed with astounding precision and even greater vigour. “Set Guitars To Kill” sounded truly monumental (I later overheard some say that during it, they “felt like I could punch through mountains.”, which is an apt description of the general feeling that ran through the entirety of the evening), and final song, “The Voiceless”, was verging on transcendent.

Despite the fact that a number of fans probably went home with an impressive assortment of neck injuries, there was a real sense of catharsis underpinning proceedings. ASIWYFA’s only Northern Irish show of 2015 was superlative, and it’s not difficult to see why a band as supremely talented and hard-working as they are has been greeted with such acclaim. As relevant as they ever were, if not more so, these innovative musical stalwarts have already made the transition from local band to legends- the rest of the world is just getting up to speed.

Interview: And So I Watch You From Afar

Deadheading got to interview Chris Wee (drums) of the instrumental stalwarts “And So I Watch You From Afar” about their latest album “Heirs”, playing 32 shows in 35 days and setting up in front of Dave Grohl.

DH: What made you first realise that you wanted to start a band?

CW: Myself and Rory (Friers) were friends from a very early age, and by the time we were in our early teens we started getting into a lot of the same music and started our first band with my brother. We did the typical teenage thing, playing Nirvana and Green Day covers but also had our first stab at writing our own songs as well.

DH:What have you enjoyed most about the first leg of the ‘Heirs’ tour?

CW: Aside from the obvious enjoyment of getting to play to the fans every night, this particular tour has been easily the best run tour we have done. We have a great team around us now and this tour was really well routed and planned, so even though it was a fairly relentless tour of 32 shows in 35 days it didn’t feel intense because of the great planning.

DH: How does it feel to be headlining your own tour?

CW: It feels great, it’s rewarding to know that we can put together an extensive tour of cities all over the place and have lots of people come out and see us. Playing support tours is really good in terms gathering new fans without the stresses of pulling our own crowd particularly but headlines are the true test of popularity.

DH: How did you feel about your homecoming show?

CW: We just played them last weekend, and we were totally blown away by the crowds. Both the Belfast and Dublin shows were amazing and we felt really comfortable playing having had 5 weeks of touring under our belts before them. Playing Irish shows are always a treat for us since the crowds are always so animated and appreciative.

DH: Who has been your favourite band to tour with so far?

CW: That’s a tough one as we have got to play with so many amazing bands over the years, but a stand out band would have to be Them Crooked Vultures, we toured with them a few years ago and it was an incredible experience, especially setting my drums up in front of Dave Grohl every night. They were by far the most famous yet down to earth guys we’ve ever played so it was an unforgettable time for us.

DH: If you could tour with anyone, who would it be?

CW: I think touring with Nine Inch Nails would be an amazing experience, we supported them at their big Belfast show a couple of summers ago and they had the most staggering production, it was great to be a part of it.

DH: What is the worst tour you’ve ever been on?

CW: Some of the early UK tours we did when we were first starting out were pretty tough on us. We would maybe do a month at a time and many of the shows would be to around 5 people so it was it was hard to see past the bleakness of it as well as struggling a lot with money back then. However, tours like that were invaluable to us in the long run as they really hardened us to difficult times and have made us all the more thankful that things are going well now.

DH: Which album have you found the most difficult to write?

CW: Writing has always been a really rewarding process for us but the most difficult was maybe writing ‘Gangs’. Being our second album we were suddenly faced with a level expectation from people that we hadn’t had before. With our first album we were just putting together our best stuff since we had started the band and it was the first proper port of call for listeners so we didn’t have any pressure.

DH: Is song writing something that occurs relatively naturally, or do you have to actively search for inspiration?

CW: Ideas are always coming out of nowhere at the strangest times and places. A lot of the time there might be a guitar line that one of the guys comes up with backstage in a venue at 1 in the morning and it stays as a small idea until we get back from tour and start working on it. Then other times some of the best ideas spring out of many hours of fruitless writing right at the end of the day.

DH: You have a very distinctive sound. How much experimenting did it take to achieve/hone that sound?

CW: With our early music we were putting a different edge to a lot of instrumental music we had been listening to at the time, but as time has gone on we have been constantly trying to reinvent and push ourselves creatively. We’re always striving to be more competent musicians as well, so developing more technicality also feeds into the progression of the music.

DH: Outside of music, what do you like to draw inspiration from?

CW: Traveling has to be one of the biggest inspirations for us I would say. You are always product of where you come from as well as the environment that you are in, so as people that travel a lot because of touring, we get to meet people from all different walks of life and experience countries and cities so vastly different from our own so that gives us a lot of inspiration in what we end up creating.

DH: Is it difficult to decide when to stop working on a song?

CW: This was actually quite a notable aspect of our most recent album HEIRS. We came up with a technique called ‘Wasping’ that came about from the song Wasps, where we had an arrangement much longer than the final version, and we decided that we had to drastically cut it down otherwise we couldn’t see it going on the album. So wasping was our ruthless method of cutting deadwood from ideas and we used it on quite a few ideas throughout the writing process and it was a really liberating feeling.

DH: What was the first song you ever learned to play?

CW: Crush With Eyeliner by REM, my Dad showed me how to play it on guitar. However I quickly got bored and frustrated at learning guitar and when I discovered drums it was no going back from there.

DH: Was creating music that is mostly instrumental a conscious decision?

CW: Myself, Rory and Tony (past guitarist) had been in a more conventional rock band up until we started ASIWYFA so when we started jamming and finding our feet it was just easier to not worry about vocals. We had also been listening to a lot of instrumental music around that time so that definitely rubbed off on us.

DH: As your music is primarily instrumental, do you feel a certain pressure to be continuously innovative?

CW: We definitely have a motivation to continue to be innovative but it isn’t out of a sense of pressure but more our own satisfaction as creative people. It’s probably the most important aspect of our band that we continue to be challenged and fulfilled by the music that we make. Starting to churn out records simply to pander to a particular audience would be stifling, and our fanbase would pick up pretty quickly to that type of insincerity.

DH: Is there ever a disparity between what you intend to write and what you actually end up with? If so, do you find that frustrating?

CW: Any ideas we pursue are always one that we are excited about, so the only time working on ideas becomes frustrating is when we can’t consolidate them all into a finished song. But in those instances, we either ruthlessly adjust them till we’re happy or we shelve the idea. It’s important to be able to make tough decisions like that and identify it in certain songs to prevent yourself getting bogged down with ideas that aren’t going anywhere.

DH: Have you ever written anything and felt that you couldn’t release it? If so, why?

CW: There is always a wealth of material that never makes the final release, and it’s simply part of the writing process. We fire off ideas in all different directions and we capitalise on the ones that stick and make sense. Songs get left off for many reasons, maybe they don’t fit with the mood of how the album is taking shape or maybe they’re too similar and it needs more diversity, or the song is just us stretching ourselves in a totally unrelated direction just to see whether it was worth pursuing.

DH: What has been the most challenging aspect of committing to ASIWYFA full-time?

CW: As many people are aware, being a touring band isn’t particularly profitable on a personal level unless you are playing arenas every night so money can be tight but its something that we have adapted to over the years.

DH: Was a career in music always your end-goal?

CW: In our first band together as teenagers, Rory and me would talk and dream up all these scenarios about being in a band and although there hasn’t been the glitz and glamour that our young brains had dreamt up all those years ago, we have certainly worked our way into a extremely rewarding path. I think we have all had various notions over the years of career ideas but nothing was ever as strong as our love for music and so we have just been following that in a very simplistic way, we love creating and playing music so that is our drive.

DH: If you hadn’t ended up in music, what would you have done?

CW: During my university years and while ASIWYFA was in its’ infancy, I was working in night clubs and worked my way into management but by the time I was graduating the band had been discussing becoming a more serious operation and it didn’t take me long to come to a decision about it.

DH: Do you think that music will always be your primary focus?

CW: Absolutely, it has been the one constant in my life in terms of a pursuit that I love and believe in so I’ll continue music for as long as I’m fit and able!

DH:What are your plans for the next year?

CW: We’re hoping to do another release in some form or another but we still need to work out if it’s feasible or not. Release or not, we’ll definitely be touring in 2016, hopefully with ones in Asia, the US and further afield with any luck.

DH: Has the reception that the band has received been anything like you had anticipated?

CW: We have always been a band that has built up and progressed slowly yet steadily. So most of the time we have been able to roughly predict how the reception to new albums and shows will go. Every so often though we get nice surprises when a certain show ends up being crazy good and that’s a lot of added fun for us. We have always worked off the ethos of having low expectations of things but remaining highly ambitious regardless.

DH: Have you found any experience surreal so far?

CW:A number of years ago when touring in Sweden during the winter, we had to pull over and sleep at a truck stop in our van and when we woke in the morning there was about half an inch of solid ice frozen on the inside on our windows. That was a strange moment!

DH: What, if anything, would you do differently?

CW: I’m really happy with how everything has turned out with our band. We have been together for just about 10 years now, have a wonderfully loyal and passionate fanbase and continue to be writing music together, so I wouldn’t change a thing.

DH: How does being cited as an influence on so many emerging bands feel?

CW: That is always humbling. Occasionally we will meet bands that say they started their band because they were all fans of our band and that’s incredibly rewarding to know that our music could have such an impact on people. I guess it is just as important to be influencing others around you as it is to be making the music.

DH: What are you currently listening to?

CW: I’ve been listening to Mirrored by Battles while I’ve been writing this interview, such an incredible and unrelenting album. Recently I have also been listening to Com Truise, Shipping News and Run the Jewels quite a lot as well.

If you could transcend space and time, what artist would you see live?

CW: Queen. Some of my earliest music memories were of seeing Queen concerts on TV, Freddie Mercury was mesmerising and no one will ever come close to him as a performer.

You can stream and buy And So I Watch You From Afar’s incredible new album, “Heirs”, here: http://asiwyfa.com/heirs