It's an excting time for Michigan punk band The Swellers. In 2009 alone they were lucky enough to support Paramore across America, and signining to Fueled By Ramen (Home to Forgive Durden, Cobra Starship and more) After playing the gig of their career as a band so far at Groezrock in Belgium I caught up with Nick (Vocals/Guitar) and Jonathan (Drums) to see what's next.
This is your first time over in the UK and indeed Europe, how has it all been going?
Nick: It's going well.We're over here playing shows and making friends, just exactly what we had expected.
You played Groezrock in Belgium a few weeks back, how did that go?
Jonathan: That was probably our favourite show we've ever played. Not only was there punk rock legends playing after us, we met up with alot of our friends bands there too and it was just a perfect day.
I'm sure I no doubt speak for a lot of people when I say this but i'm extremely jealous you guys saw Millencolin!
Nick: Haha I'm jealous of myself for seeing Millencolin.
Jonathan: We got to meet them and hang out for a bit, it was very awesome.
You've been signed to Fueled By Ramen for your new record 'Ups and Downsizing' Do you hope this will be the start of a more variety of bands added to the label?
Nick: I would hope so. I hope Fueled would start signing more bands as we were actually the only band they signed in 2009. Hopefully this year they'll have some more cool new bands on their roster so it won't scare me that we're the only punk band on there. [laughs]
Jono: They're a great label though, already they've given us lots of cool opportunities.
How well has 'Ups and Downsizing' been received so far?
Nick: Better than we expected. All the reviews that we've seen have been great and people have been buying them after shows and it's been awesome.
Jonathan: I think it's like a delayed reaction, as right when it came out we got a lot of press but just recently a lot of people have just started talking about us. Bands like The Bled that I thought would never have even known who we are, so its really cool. So yeah the reactions have all been great.
The single 'Fire Away' has seen a lot of airplay on our radio show especially along with a few others. Do you have any other singles in the pipeline?
Jonathan: We're going to work on a video for Sleeper soon so that's likely to be the next one. I think we need to talk about the video first before we make it but thats the next step right now.
There seems to be a variety of influences present in your music from punk bands new and old. What sort of collective influences do you have as a band?
Nick: I think one of the reasons we all started playing were bands like Nirvana and Green Day just way back in the day. All the 90's radio bands and all the punk bands that we grew up with together. We have our own pieces that we bring to the table. Jonathan and I share alot of the same ones as we're brothers and we've been listening to music and playing for a long time. But yeah it kinda brings a lot of cool stuff to the table when it's all said and done.
A lot of people here associate you guys with Paramore and touring with them in the states. How much does The Swellers owe to them in terms of your success?
Nick: I think the only thing we can really say to them is thanks and let's do it again.
Jonathan: That was one of the coolest tours we've ever done though.
It must have been a massive step up for your band.
Nick: Yeah it was great. Our record came out September 29th and thats when the tour started. It was a really incredible week and it was a lot of fun.
What key components do you guys consider that are needed for young and upcoming bands these days?
Nick: The main thing is people need to be smart about what they're doing. A lot of people sign to a label for the sake of signing instead of actually looking into it.
Jonathan: If you're a newer band and don't have that much going on for you try and get on a label but don't bother trying to sign to a really small label as eventually if you do get picked up by a bigger label, not only is there a lot of money issues and stuff like that it's kind of cool doing stuff yourself and then going to something big, you know?
Nick: In short; you can do it yourself. You totally can. We were signed to a smaller label but we still did it ourselves and you don't wanna get locked down into anything you don't want to get stuck into. I get people e-mailing me and coming up to me at shows saying 'I started a band how do I get to where you are now?' The only advice I can give is write some good songs, play some shows and don't stop doing it. If you suck, start over and do something else. When we started as a band no-one said you guys should re-think what you're doing. Even if people didn't like our music alot of people thought we were good at what we do, and that kinda kept us going. Find some good people who know whats going on, and play shows. You have to play shows and you have to play them well. That's basically all the advice I can give.
Do you believe the power of word of mouth and people spreading the word through Facebook and Twitter that seems that bit more important now?
Jonathan: Yeah I think, whenever MySpace started we had always seemed to have a lot of contact with people over here. People have always been saying to us 'Come up! Come up!' when our first songs came out, so we're getting to play some of our really old songs to a lot of the people who come to these shows, it's kind of like a long time coming.
How far do you think The Swellers can go as a band/What are your main aspirations?
Nick: The southern tip of Chilli.[laughs]
Jonathan: Making this a life long career would be the coolest thing. Not only being financially stable but having this be our job. It's really cool that bands can do that, like Foo Fighters play Wembley two nights in a row. That would be amazing to do something like that one day.
So your a good way into your UK tour at the moment with Canterbury hows it all been going so far?
John: So far it's been a fun tour all round, it's been very eventful so far a lot has happened but it's always fun to come back and play to the UK, one of our favourites for sure.
What keeps you occupied when your on the road?
John: Well at the moment i'm doing a lot of reading, and watching movies. We're not big party people so we don't go out to bars or anything too much.
The Canadian music scene seems great at the moment, you have Alexisonfire, Silverstein, etc.
John: Absolutely, not just in heavy either. It's a culture that really supports it's own talent. From everything to Broken Social Scene to Feist. It's very collective and everyones kinda fighting the same fight.
How was Reading and Leeds for you this year?
John: Yeah Reading and Leeds was a good time, we were headlining the Lock Up stage which was really cool. We had to leave right after though which was a shame, but it was really fun. The festivals over here seem to be a bit better organised. Like in Canada and the States the festivals seem to just be sponsored by Radio Stations, one day event's kinda thing.
The new album III has been out for some time now, just wondering how well it's been received live?
John: Yeah it's been good. We've been playing about half of the new record mixed in with our other 2 records and it's been going over great. We've always had great crowd involvement with our shows.
Especially with this new CD but throughout your discography your music seems unclassifiable genre wise. Do you like that people can't pin you down to a specific genre or band similarities?
John: Absolutely, and it's funny because people try and they give us everything from Emo to a Punk Rock, even Punk Pop which is the one I really don't like. We get it all, and I think that's a good thing. We want to be our own type of band and an original voice, that's something we've always tried to do. We take influences from all different types of music. This is definitely something we strive for.
When you first got going as a band did this individual sound give you a leg up amongst similar bands within the scene?
John: It definitely did when we were an indie band for the first 10 years. It was hard as we could never find a scene or find bands to play with, at that point we were almost an outcasted band and it was a struggle to find gigs. When our first record came out they'd listen to one song and put us with screamo bands for instance. It's all just about persistance and we just kept doing our own thing, and it paid off.
Once this tour is over what's your plans for the rest of the year?
John: Well we're taking a couple of weeks of after the UK then heading to Europe, then we're off for the new year. I think we're coming back to play Scandinavia and a few other places we didn't hit this time around. More American touring and a big Canadian tour in March too.
Alexisonfire are no stranger to the music industry. After 8 successful years they are still redefining genres and pushing boundaries. Having just returned from a summer of festivals and promoting the latest release 'Old Crows/Young Cardinals' It is still no doubt that Alexisonfire are still an unstoppable force with a fantastic live show. We caught up with Chris Steele (bass) to find out more.
So tonight is the last date of the UK leg of the Eastpak tour. Hows it all been going so far?
Chris: It's been absolutely unbelievable. We're just so excited to be with the other 3 bands on the tour The Ghost of A Thousand, Four Year Strong and Anti-Flag. Just a great touring package really. We find with the UK the crowds are so receptive and so open to different kinds of music, every band has just been rocking every night, it's been great.
How is it playing venues again now that the festival season has come to an end?
Chris: It feels great. All summer long we did the Vans Warped Tour in America which was really fun, I think we did something crazy like 56 shows with a couple of Canadian dates thrown in there. After that we came over and did Reading and Leeds which was great and we continued to do some more outdoor festivals throughout September in Canada. We've just been waiting for so long to be indoors with a closer,more intimate crowd. Also playing on a scheduled time to is great as on Warped you never know when you're gonna be on.
The new CD Old Crows/Young Cardinals has recently been released. I've noticed it has much more energy and almost a completely different approach.Was the new direction deliberate or more of a natural progression?
Chris: It definately just kinda happened at a set time. Usually we're on the road for about 9 months at a time and the bands been together for just over 8 years. For most of that time we've just been out on the road, take some time out over Christmas, write a record in January with some ideas we've came up with on the road and record in february, back out in March. This time we took a better part of almost upto a year and we just sat back relaxed a little bit more and did a lot more pre production. We just matured more as a band. Every record is Alexis and you can still tell its Alexis. We don't want to recycle and do the same record twice in a row.
Definately. One change I noticed was an improvement in George's vocals this time round too.
Chris: Yeah, It's something a little new but still Alexis, we still have the balance of Dallas singing. We just wanted to write a straight forward rocking record that we would like to portray in a live atmosphere. We want to play every one of these songs live.
Has the writing process changed since when you first started writing?
Chris: Yeah it has quite drastically. When we first started with our first record we didnt have a direction. We all came from different backgrounds. Some more punk rock some and others more metal for instance. We then just molded to this outfit that we are now. So when we started we just writing songs but not really with a direction a lot of Dallas and Wade going 'Look at what I can do on guitar!' It was uncool to repeat a chorus or even have a chorus at that point. [laughs] It was just a bunch of pieces like melded together to create what we thought were songs. We still play a few of them live today but we've just kinda moved on and matured and found it's ok to have a chorus and repeat it again too!
Your new video for 'Young Cardinals' was filmed on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. How did this come about?
Chris: It was really funny actually, before the album or any of the songs were written Dallas had this idea to shoot a video at Maid of the Mist which is really close to home for us. If you've seen a few of our videos before, we take our music writing seriously but we're not a serious band, we like to throw some fun into the loop. It was going to be more of a joke at first, if your from around that area everyone goes to the Maid of the Mist for their Grade 8 school trip, its kinda like a like honeymoon capital of the world. So first it really kinda seemed like ajoke but it was a beautiful day so we just decided to go for it and it was a blast.
As you tour pretty much constantly do you find it takes its toll on any relationships you may have at home?
Chris: Not really, no. I mean, you definately need to have a balance. Everyone that we're close to are 100% supportive of us and its always been that way from the get go and we just try to make the best of it really.
Do you get your family checking up on you on the road?
Chris: Oh yeah man absolutely; Jacqueline Steele number 1 fan! she came a few times and does little road trips. I know for sure she'd love to out with us right now, specially when we go across Europe. Just picture Detriot Warped Tour with Father Steele sitting on his recliner watching the show, and Mother Steele out in the pit mixing it up. [laughs]
The new EP out soon called Dogs Blood. Although its early days is there anything you can tell us about the release?
Chris: It's a little bit confidential at the moment but when we did record our last full length [Old Crows/Young Cardinals] out in Vancouver we were there for a set amount of time. We actually recorded the CD live so we just banged them out really quick and since we had a lot more pre production we were just on top of our game. But we recorded actually 17 songs and obviously they're 11 on the record. We have a couple of b-sides that we have right now and we have written a couple of heavy tunes just on this tour like in soundchecks. We can't wait to get it out there though!
The Blackout are a Welsh post-hardcore band tipped for big things. Recently signed to Epitaph Records, extensive press coverage from Kerrang! The Blackout are preparing for their busiest and most defining summer yet. I interviewed Rhys and Gareth to find out more.
How has the tour been going so far?
Gareth: It's been good! It's the 5th date today I believe. We started in Dublin on Saturday morning. We Are The Ocean played too which was fun.
Whats it like to tour with Silverstein and Hollywood Undead?
Gareth: Really good - The Silverstein boys are cool and thats the first time we've met them. Hollywood Undead are nice people but you can't really tell because of their masks!
Favourite pass time on tour?
Gareth: We normally just go out somewhere to get some food or spend some time on the internet.
Rhys: We play alot of Xbox and watch a lot of DVDs on the road too.
For anyone that has not seen The Blackout on tour yet, what can people expect?
Rhys: Lots of sweaty fun.
Gareth: Not your typical "Stare at the ground performance" When people come see us we give them a show. If they pay this much money to see a band. The least we can do is give them some entertainment for the amount of money they're paying. Loads of energy. Inbetween songs Sean and Gavin don't shut up! They're constantly telling jokes or something stupid. Somebody always falls too.
The new single "Children Of The Night" was released earlier this week. Pleased with how it has been received?
Gareth: Yeah, it's mad because we started playing it in October on the From First To Last tour and when we recorded it in December we changed it around loads.
Rhys: We basically made the chorus sound a lot bigger. It's a good song to sing a long too so it always seems to be going down well live.
The B-Sides on the single include "I Kissed A Girl and I Liked It" by Katy Perry. Interesting choice! Are you guys big pop fans?
Gareth: Yes! I'm actually dedicating one of my arms to bands and one of the tattoos is going to be of Michael Jackson.
You've recently been signed to Epitaph Records. How did this come about?
Rhys: It's awesome. One of the biggest indepedent labels in the world. I grew up listening to a lot of bands on it and to be on it now, it's just ridiculous!
Gareth: It's just a bit surreal. When we were writing the album our manager told us about a couple of labels interested but it turns out Epitaph were the most willing and it was a much nicer atmposhere. Even though they arn't a major label, we thought we would get a lot more love and appreciation off them compared to a much larger major label.
Rhys: Yeah, it's perfect for us really. You never know what's going to go on with a major. With Epitaph there's no middle men for instance.
Good stuff. Is there any bands on label you're particularly liking at the moment?
Rhys: Every Time I Die, for a start. We love that band. We might be doing an Epitaph tour with them in the US. Bring Me The Horizon and Gallows have just been signed too I believe.
Gareth: Yeah, Every Time I Die that would be incredible as they're such a big inspiration for us. One of the best live bands we've had the pleasure of seeing too.
Rhys: They're a bit like us in the sense that we try and get everyone in the crowd involved as much as possible.
What do you guys make of the Welsh scene as it seems to be fairly blooming with Kids In Glass Houses and Save Your Breath for instance?
Gareth: It's really good. We love those bands and also the larger ones like Lost Prophets and Funeral For A Friend are cool because even though they're pretty massive, they still have time for everyone else. We were in LA recently doing the video for "Children Of The Night" and the next single, we met up with the Lostprophets boys and went for sushi. Always have time for you which is awesome.
From when the band started, did you ever expect that The Blackout! would ever reach the status that it has?
Gareth: We're still a bit skeptical about it to be honest. It's crazy.
I know it must be very overwhelming as the singles out, the albums out soon and your on the front page of Kerrang! It seems like you have a lot going for you at the moment.
Gareth: I couldn't believe it when I saw that. I've been reading that magazine since I was about 13 and to see us on the cover was so surreal. We used to travel hours to play first to nobody. But we were just so stoked to be playing outside of Wales, we've always found it a privalige.
Out of everywhere you've played so far, where is you're favourite and why?
Rhys: Japan, I reckon.
Gareth: Yeah definately Japan. Everyones so polite and don't barge their way through shows and signings. They even queue at the order of the ticket number at shows. Nowhere else in the world would you see that! Its really funny because during songs they would just go off, totally crazy. But inbeween songs they just go quiet. It's really quite something.
Warped Tour is coming soon for you. Are you looking forward to it?
Rhys: Absolutely. We did Bamboozle which was a mini taster for us with Bless The Fall over the Mid West. We just love America.
Gareth: We played 5 sets of shows in these smaller places which was cool. We had to work our way up again as no-one knows who we are over there yet really.
Rhys: It's going to be all about winning people over as we're still a new band to everyone over there. It's gonna be fun though, we're all really looking forward to it.
Do you reckon when you head over to Warped that their will be a lot bigger buzz than before with the release of the new album?
Gareth: Yeah hopefully. It was tough for us last time at Bamboozle as we were on the same time as Finch and it was there first comeback show.
Any major plans for the rest of the year?
Rhys: Bits of Festivals popping up and hopefully an American tour, but its all in talks at the moment really.
Gareth: Rock Am Ring and Download, and some shows with Billy Talent too. Hopefully some more tours around the world too, it's going to be really really full on and I can't wait.
Although Silversteinhave been around for some time, they have always been at the forefront of the Candian music scene. Combine an extremely loyal fanbase and their best work to date "A Shipwreck In The Sand" and you get one of the most exciting bands in the scene to date. I caught up with Shane on their recent UK tour with The Blackout and The Urgency.
How has the tour been going so far?
Shane: So far so good, this is the first time Iíve seen the sun since Iíve been in the UK so far so Iím pretty happy! This tours been cool because the guys in The Urgency and The Blackout are really down to earth. Weíve been going out to a lot of bars partying quite a bit. I met The Blackout before from doing some festivals in the past but itís been cool making friends with The Urgency who are really nice guys.
Youíve toured around the UK numerous times. Out of all the places in England youíve played so far which is your favourite and why?
Shane: Probably Yeovil so far. The smaller cities where they donít have as many shows, they have more hunger for the few that make their way over there you know? It seems to me that the smaller ones are always the craziest.
Favourite past time on tour?
Shane: I like listening to music and reading. I bought the new Eminem CD recently, which is a bit weird, not my favourite but it always takes me a few listens. I bought the new NOFX and Propaghandhi records too which I love. I watch a lot of TV too. Nothing too crazy really.
The new record ĎA Shipwreck In The Sandí was released on March 31. Are you happy with how well the CD has been received?
Shane: Totally happy. Iíve never been happier with it than any other musical project that I have been a part of. I havenít actually heard a single piece of negative feedback at all. Everyoneís been so positive and people have been so excited about the record.
Has the new material been going down well live also?
Shane: Absolutely, live itís going down great. Itís tough now because we have so many songs itís getting harder to pick songs for the set, especially as weíre supporting this time round.
If you could tour with any band who would it be and why?
Shane: Thatís a tough one because as a fan thereís bands iíd like to go on tour with, but as far as being in a band goes, those are different. Iíd love to go on tour with NOFX and Propaghandhi, but as a band Itíd be really cool to tour with My Chemical Romance.
Do you enjoy festivals as you get to play with bands that you may not get to tour with usually?
Shane: Yeah, I enjoy festivals. I'd have to say Warped Tour is my favourite. After a week of it everybody knows each other so you have that sense of comradity, rather than a one day festival for instance. Weíre heading out for a couple of weeks for Warped this summer which will be cool. The Blackout will be there too so itís going to be great.
Plans for the summer?
Shane: Weíre going to do a short run of the mid west of the United States. We are going to play a lot of places that we didnít get to play to on the last tour. Also going to do some shows in Canada where we are from. Aside from touring weíre going to have some time off this summer which will be nice.
As far as the Canadian music scene is considered, are you proud of the scene as a whole?
Shane: It is most definitely a striving scene but it used to be better. Iím not sure whether the internet is to blame but people arenít going to many as they were which a shame. However I am really proud of where I come from and the bands that come out of the scene. One of my favourites is Lights who sung on our new record.
You currently have your own record label Verona Records. Any bands to recommend?
Shane: Theres a band called I Am Committing A Sin, from my hometown. Theyíre a very talented band plus they got a new EP coming out in a couple of weeks, so you should definitely pick that up.