Hello and welcome to Lords Of Metal again Caroline. How is the band doing around the release the new album ‘The Sick, Dumb & Happy’?
Good, very good – but also extremely busy. Currently setting everything up around the album. Trying to get the buzz around the album going as much as possible, releasing new music videos, working on a completely renewed live set. It’s insanely busy, but we’re doing great!
’The Sick, Dumb & Happy’? is the follow up to your 2013 release ‘A Shade Of My Former Self’. What have you been doing since that release?
Since the release of that record, we’ve been playing a lot of nice shows and festivals. We’ve done some tours with Upon A Burning Body, We Came As Romans and played bucket list material festivals such as Graspop, Download Festival and even our very own Lowlands Festival. When we decided to head back to the studio and record and write a new album, that’s when this thing hit us: what do we want to come up with next? Does metalcore still feels right for us? As you’ve may heard from the new record, it didn’t. So we took our time – a very long time - finding out the new us, listening to our biggest inspirations and writing, writing, writing, killing our darlings, and start anew.
‘A Shade Of My Former Self’ was released on the Listenable label, but you are now signed to Arising Empire, part of the Nuclear Blast roster. How did this deal come about?
We’ve played the Global Rock Summit, a showcase event in Los Angeles. BUMA Rocks got us on that bill, together with John Coffey and Mandrake’s Monster. It was a great opportunity to reach out to some new business guys overseas, such as Gerardo Martinez of Nuclear Blast USA. He visited our show and seemed to like what he heard. Not at all what we’ve expected, because it was a rather ‘awkward’ show. A half-empty venue, guys in suits not moshing out to your shit. But nonetheless: that’s when the real rollercoaster ride began. Six months there was a deal.
From VH metal Records via Listenable records onwards to Arising Empire/Nuclear Blast Records. It seems that the growth in record labels synchronizes with the growth of the band. What makes Arising Empire the perfect label four you at this point in your career?
Arising Empire is a great sublabel of Nuclear Blast because it not only has these great guys working their asses of and having great passion for the bands they sign and music they put out, but they also have the network and ability to offer younger bands a platform to reach a bigger awareness throughout Europe and ROW, as well as reaching a bigger audience.
Being signed by a big label has its benefits (bigger networks, tour support, access to all important media, advance cashflow etc), but in the end of the day you are supposed to sell the number of copies they expect from you, and more would even be better. The number of bands that where dropped by their labels for not making their targets is countless. That’s how the industry works of course, but do you, because of this, feel any extra pressure?
Haha you got me there. It’s extreeeemely stressful. When we’ve visited the Nuclear Blast offices we were blown away by the fact that there’s this actual team of people working on YOUR release. They put so much time, effort and money into this that it really feels like we owe it to them to sell as many cd’s as possible.
The expectations for the new album where quite high. Your previous material received pretty good marks in the media, and now backed by one of the largest metal labels in the music industry I guess you guys felt more pressure than usual while recording ‘The Sick, Dumb & Happy’?
Not really actually, we kind of let that pressure go. We felt that we had to start all over again, as it’s been quite a while since the release of our previous record and didn’t want to head out in the direction we first went. I think that a certain pressure also has a negative effect on the outcome of the recording process. It felt unnatural, but we let it go. We’ve actually worked with three different test mixers, re-recorded not only the drums at two different studios but also the guitars twice. We’ve wanted to come up with something that we felt was right.
In my humble opinion the new record sounds bigger and better than your previous efforts. Quite logical considering the years that are between songwriting for ‘The Sick, Dumb & Happy’ and your 2013 effort. How do you see and/or explain your own personal growth when it comes to writing cool riffs and hooks that at the same time also make catchy songs?
I feel that back in the days when we wrote ‘A Shade Of My Former Self’ – and when we listened to a lot of metalcore bands such as Underoath, As I Lay Dying, Killswitch etc – we wanted to do ‘the same’ thing. We focused rather on writing in song structures (‘breakdown!’ ‘poppy chorus’!) than writing something that is ‘right’ for the song. When we listened to our biggest musical heroes, such as Pantera, Metallica and Slipknot – and their stuff is timeless, it’s just so heavy and great today still – we were hit by the fact that their songs are great because they have that one specific element that’s basically what the song revolves around: an awesome riff, a great hook, a great vocal line. So we moved our focus to writing an awesome riff and building the song around that than to write in song structures.
Besides improved songwriting also your voice has positively progressed and is this time near perfection. Do you still practice every day and take lessons with voice coaching?
Ha, yep I do. You can kind of compare it with going to the gym every day. Your vocal chords are muscles that have to be triggered and trained each day. And if you practice the same stuff for months or even years, your chords will get used to it. So it’s constant practice. And if you lay back, your chords will become fat and lazy just like yourself ;-). Still trying to become a better vocalist each day.
Recently you even took part in a grunt clinic at a music fair. Can you tell us something about that?
Andre from MusicMaker asked me if I wanted to do that. It was pretty hectic as we’ve had so much press lined up and even a gig on 3FM in the middle of the night (I actually had a family weekend planned but cancelled that, of course ;-)). But it was so much fun: I didn’t expect that there were actually people there, listening to what I have to say about grunts in general on a Sunday! And it still feels surreal: still, after years and years of practice I cannot really explain rightfully HOW I do it, I just do it ;-).
Looking at that the artwork of the album, it is very remarkable. The design is simple but with all the colors and the hypnotizing eyes it will truly stand out in the mass of album and album artwork. How did you come by this design? Is it in a way connected with the album or the band?
I guess both our music as well as the artwork are a big statement. It’s a call to action, we want to make people aware. Not only of our album, but also of the fact that we’re slowly turning into these anti-social, mindless sheep that are only here for our own hedonistic purposes. Becoming blind for the world as we’re being spoon fed by the media that only gives us one sided perspectives of the world. We’re fucking brainwashed, hence the spiral eyes. The album artwork captures it completely. We’ve had this idea of a skull with spiral eyes for a while and found work of Robert Sammelin on this website called Behance. We instantly liked what he did and he took our idea to a next level.
Now really striking artwork was of course a great asset in times people actually bought LPs and CDs in physical shops. What is, according to you, the added value of cool artwork in this digital day and age?
Artwork has to make your album pop out of those containers filled with all of these black CD’s. Online it’s the same story: the album artwork has to pop out of these playlists or other features. It has to instantly smacks you in the face and trigger your interest. And also: metal is supposed to be the genre and lifestyle that kicks against the system right? So within that genre, why do all of these bands all have to come up with the same dark, moody and black album covers?
Your music is quite unique. The base is metalcore, but you can hear so much others influences like southern sleazy rock, Kirk Hammet alike solo’s and even a beautiful ballad. So how do you write these tunes? Is it a few band members working out complete songs for the rest of the band? Do you come up with ideas while jamming together? What makes The Charm The Fury tick when it comes to new material?
Initially it starts out with our drummer Mathijs who has this idea of a nice riff. He sits down with one of the guitarists to work it out into the basis of the track. Rolf often fills in the details with his licks. When the instrumental is done, I’d often sit together with Mathijs and Lucas to lay down vocal lines. Phonetically sing to the instrumental, see what works best for the rhythm and if we can think of a killer hook. It’s right after that when we start writing the lyrics. So it’s all a step-by-step process. I think what really drives the album is just one great ‘core’ per song. It’s either a great riff, a nice groove or a cool hook that really creates and drives the carcass of the entire song.
What kind of music do you prefer anyway? Furious metalcore or making some heavenly music with fragile clean voices and music?
Ambient and electronical opera. No, I love making metal because it’s so angry. For me it’s a way to ventilate, because normally I’m the worst when it comes to confrontations or fights. I just don’t like it. It’s weird, because I like all of these extreme things, extreme sports (kick boxing), extreme styles of music, but I’d say that my personality isn’t really extreme.
On ‘A Shade Of My Former Self’ there was some guest singing by Daniël De Jongh from Textures and Jamie Graham from Heart Of A Coward. I didn’t notice any guest singers now. Was there no need for some outside assistance this time?
I’m not sure. Back in the days it kind of felt like a must to get other singers involved to broaden our horizon and maybe add some different styles of singing / diversity when it comes to vocals, to the album. This album appeals to every spectrum of metal, so it didn’t feel like a must to add more different elements to it.
The music industry changed a lot last ten years. I read an older interview (2013) with the band where you mentioned that the band was finally able to break even financially. How is that nowadays after four years of hard work?
Back at zero – no, even lower. We’ve invested so much money in this album that we have to play shows for years in order to get back to break even again ;-). #poormusiciancliche
What were the expectations anyway when you started with the band years ago?
There were no expectations. That’s just because coming from such a small country and making ‘metal’ music – a real niche market if you’d ask me, chances of you becoming a professional musician are almost non-existent. When we started out, we basically jammed, did some writing but most of all hung out together as a group of friends and had a lot of fun. It was when we released our first demo song of ‘Virtue Of Leadership’ that people were actually so excited that it kind of hit us: wow, we actually might have ‘Gold’ in our hands.
How important is the social media these days for a band? Do you manage all those ways (Facebook, Instagram) yourself are do you have somebody employed as kind of a Facebook manager?
It’s the most important thing nowadays – websites often don’t mean anything anymore. Social media is the uttermost important tool to gain visibility, to get awareness of your products and interact with your fans. It’s really a pity that Facebook is becoming a harder tool to work with when it comes down to visibility. A really small percentage of your fans would now see your posts appear in your timeline, and you have to pay to get more visibility. We’ve always managed our social media channels ourselves and now do it in agreement with our label since they want to push our albums sometimes too.
Being seen on social media is one thing. Being seen live on stage is another. You played a lot of national and international shows in the past? Any amusing tales you can tell us?
Hmmmmmmm…. Amusing. Festivals or one-off shows are always amusing – because then we are able to hang around after all of our duties are done - watch the other bands play and have some drinks. At Groezrock there was actually crowd surfing going on at the side stage of The Offspring. I believe it was right after that that the guys were hitting each other’s buttocks with chairs, when the bassist of Norma Jean jumped in and offered us shots. Shots with Norma Jean. If you’d tell me this years ago, I wouldn’t believe I’d be doing that. Oh and Mathijs is always the first to hang above the toilet and Rolf (when he was still single) would be the next to kick him out if he’d found a girl for the night (or, at least, for the hour). On other festivals, the non-metal heads most of the time would stare at us with open mouths and laugh at each other like: WHAT IS HAPPENING!
Of which country do you have the best memories? And to stay well-balanced: in what country do you had your worst experience?
Germany is a great country for touring. The venues are awesome, the crew is nice and the hospitality is great. And last but not least: the fans are AWESOME. The people coming out to the show really show interest in every band of the bill, listen closely, react to the band and often go wild. I think the German shows are the ones that always turn out to be the best. Well.. The UK is often awful. We’ve once played in this venue who didn’t want to put on the central heating to save money… And it was -10 degrees outside. Just to give you one example of the many things we’ve experienced there ;-).
After the release of the new album and the promotional duties you’ll be on European Tour together with labelmates Bury Tomorrow. What can you tell us about this trek?
We’ll be heading to Haarlem, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. We’re so much looking forward to it! We’ve known the Bury Tomorrow guys for quite a while now and they’re great party-guys. So I’m guessing the tour will be a lot of fun ;-).
After this tour it’s almost time for the festival season, but before that you’ll be traveling to the United States where you’ll be playing the festivals Rockville 2017 (Jacksonville Florida), Carolina Rebellion 2017 (Charlotte North Carolina) and Northern Invasion 2017 (Somerset Wisconsin). Well, that sounds like an awesome kinda vacation for a couple of guys an a gall from Amsterdam. How did you get these gigs?
In the US our booking agent is Michael Arfin from Artist Group International. So he’d put all his time and effort into getting us to play these festivals. We’re quite amazed that we actually got the spots since we’re still a tiny band from Amsterdam ;-).
When you return to Europe it is festival galore all-over again, with Download festivals in England an Spain, a gig at Graspop Belgium, a performance at Into The Grave in Holland and lots more. Are there any festivals in particular you really are looking forward to?
I’m SO looking forward to Download and Graspop. When we were there a few years ago, we were star struck for the entire weekend: having dinner with Trivium, pulling duckfaces with Steel Panther and hanging around with The Dillinger Escape Plan. It’s just mind blowing!
I also noticed some gigs at more mainstream pop festivals. Now the more metal on such festivals the better of course, but how do you thing non-metal folk will react on the extreme sounds of your band?
It’s funny because at these mainstream festivals you always have a few metal-heads. And when you are one of the few metal bands to playing such a festival, the metal heads that ARE on that festival often go wild. So most of the times those shows are just really fucking great!
All right, this is it from my side. Thank you very much for your time, I wish you well and as tradition demands it I hereby offer you the final words to our readers.
Give our album a spin – the album covers the entire spectrum of metal, so there’s something for everyone.