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Feature Interview: Dead Letter Circus

Dead Letter Circus

Dead Letter Circus’s third album, The Catalyst Fire, is due out next week, so AAA Backstage’s Navarone Farrell caught up with the band’s drummer, Luke Williams, for a chat.

Tell me about what you were trying to achieve with The Catalyst Fire:

It was kind of a different record for us to make to begin with because Rob, Rob Marrick our founding guitar player, has left. We were kind of just like… we’re always striving to make music that’s different, that we haven’t heard before, do you know what I mean? We often find ourselves when we’re writing, if we listen back to a recording we do of our writing sessions and it sounds too much like another band, we’ll probably end up scrapping that idea, simply because it sounds like someone else already. We like to attack the writing process for any album not sounding like anyone else. We’re trying to make new, fresh, interesting music. That’s probably our foundational objective with any writing. With this one we were trying to push the envelope a bit more with our playing, and I think we’ve achieved that.

You’ve bridged that gap between alternative rock and metal, for lack of better classification, how did this evolution in sound happen?

Just through the bands that we’ve been touring with I reckon. We’ve had sort of three years of touring since we dropped This Is The Warning, and we’ve been overseas, we’ve done tours overseas, they’ve all been really heavy bands, Animals as Leaders, Intronaut, Last Chance to Reason; quite heavy acts, that’s rubbed off on us, that heavier sound we’ve been exposed to on the road has kind of just crept into our music a bit more. Every single one of us are all fans of music, but we’ve just never… we got a bit away from it on This Is The Warning, and I guess seeing these bands overseas reminded us that heavy music can still be cool. 

You’ve worked with Forrester Savell before on This Is The Warning

The process was pretty similar, we were just bringing different things to the table. Forry’s good that he can always evolve with what we’re doing, his job is to make what we’re doing the best that it can be, that’s a producer’s job, he’s very flexible, he’s not a one trick pony. Whatever sound you’re dishing him, he can roll that, and push that further and make it better. It was a very sure process from the first record to the second record. 

How does working with such a young producer affect the process?

Yeah, he’s just open-minded. He’s done a lot of different projects, a lot of different styles. He can quickly put on hats… like he’s mainly known for his rock stuff, he’s done soul stuff, hip hop stuff, indie stuff, whatever gets thrown at him he does, cos he’s just got an open mind and he listens to a whole bunch different music. He’s not one of these people that have pigeonholed themselves into just listening to metal, or just being a hip-hop producer, he’s one of those people who loves all music. 

Nine months is a fairly short writing and recording time, would you have liked longer?

Well, nine months… I think it was a bit longer than that, we spent a fuckload of time in the studio, and we write, it takes a long time for us to write, we’re very meticulous, we’ll rework songs, two, three, four times, until it’s right. We’ll write an entire song, scrap it, take the best parts from that song, re-write another song around that, and the same thing can happen again on the second or third incarnation—we just keep going back to the drawing board. The same thing will happen in the studio, we’ll just track it until it’s pretty much perfect—until we couldn’t get a better take.

Did you have any direct influences that stimulated or motivated you throughout the writing and recording process?

I mean… it’s a kind of controversial topic, but myself, and the band, we all traveled to Peru to drink Ayahuasca with local shamans in the Amazon Rainforest over there, and I guess that sort of influenced the ethos behind the band—what we’re all about—especially what Kim’s lyrical content is all about, that would definitely be a major influencing factor. And those bands I mentioned before, that we were on tour with, those bands rubbing off stylistically on to us when we were in the States with Animals as Leaders, I can definitely hear some of their little choppy parts rubbing off on us.

The film clip for ‘Lodestar’ is pretty gritty. Tell me a little bit about it.

It is gritty, isn’t it? It’s a lot grittier than I thought it would be. It’s cool and it’s representative of the song, cos in the film clip, you’ve got the young boy waking up in a world that seems lost and chaos is ruling, and he comes and takes the people who are in that mode—that chaotic mode—and takes them away from that and takes them somewhere better. Kim wrote that song about people in his life that have showed him a better way to live, or inspired him to like, say, do music for a living, when he was working shit jobs, y’know. He had friends around him that were starting to make a career around music, and he would see them and think they would inspire him to wanna do that thing, so it’s all about really letting those people inspire you to evolve as a person, and paying homage to those people, and hoping that you’re one of those for someone else. You know, letting that evolution continue down the chain.

You guys must be one of the hardest working bands in Australia, how do you keep up the pace? 

It’s pretty full on, yeah, it’s like a full-time job in this band, we’re touring a lot in Australia it seems. We all love playing music so I guess it’s not that hard, it’s not like we’re going and pushing pens behind a desk. My favourite thing is getting out on the road and playing shows. It… just is what it is, it doesn’t really seem that hard, I guess the hardest thing I’ve found is all the promotion stuff in the lead up to the album dropping. That can all get very intense. The two month lead up to a new album coming out, that’s the only bit that feels like work, I guess, to me. When you dream of being a musician, you don’t really think about all that other stuff behind the scenes. It’s a lot of work, the volume of it, when you get to this level, you realise, there’s quite a lot to get a record out.

You have the twelve-date album tour coming up, tell me, what can fans expect at these shows?

Plenty of new songs, thank God. We were doing shows earlier this year, and we were all saying to each other, “Fuck, does anyone really wanna come to a show where we’re not playing any new material?” So it’s good to have a tour booked where we’ll be playing songs off a new record. I guess that’s gonna be the only new thing, we’re not gonna introduce any rainbow unicorns into the show just yet, it’s still gonna be a rock ’n’ roll show, but with brand new songs. 

Any advice you’d like to give the youngsters out there looking to make it in bands?

Just try and forge your own sound. Really take pride and passion in your craft, whatever musical instrument you’re playing, make sure you’re playing it for the right reason, and that you actually really wanna be playing that instrument because you fucking love it, not just because you think it’s cool. Have some passion in what you do, do it well, try not to be like someone else, try to be individual. I think there’s too much in this world… I think being an individual is looked down on, with herd mentality reigning supreme in this society, where anyone that appears different is ridiculed. Fuck that, try and be different. If someone’s gonna ridicule you for being different, it’s probably cos they wish they could be as individual as you are, do you know what I mean? Don’t… fuckin’… don’t listen to what people say, just be yourself.

You guys are fairy old school when it comes to rock and mentality. Have you found that there’s been a big cultural change in the generation of bands below you?

I don’t think that anyone does it differently to us, I think… there’s a change in how bands are marketing themselves, and how they’re getting attention, on social media sites. The business side of the industry is changing. I think writing good songs is just a matter of writing good songs.  I don’t think there’s any new formula you can bring to the table that’s gonna help if you’re just writing bad songs, or if you’re a shit musician. Maybe some of the techniques that they’re using to get this music out has changed, for example, home recording, or people doing it themselves, rather than paying thousands of dollars a day for a top-notch recording studio, do you know what I mean? I guess the technology is out there to help young bands now, which we didn’t have when we were younger. All the advances in Pro-Tools and mixing software now is nuts! I guess that’s probably just the one big factor, that’s the new technology that they have their disposal.

That being said, would you have had it any other way, would you have preferred this new technology when you were starting out?

No. I mean, we are embracing it now, but no. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. It’s our older generation, it’s how we did it, and we find ourselves evolving with the new trends, but you pretty much just have to keep evolving and embracing all that new stuff that comes your way, but I wouldn’t have done it any different from the start.

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