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

 

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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