- Thu, 2012-07-26 10:55
In 2005 Gallows rampaged out of Watford to claim their place as the new kings of hardcore punk. Raw, unforgiving riffs and charismatic, visceral vocals typified their debut album Orchestra Of Wolves and its follow-up Grey Britain, establishing Gallows as an unparalleled force in heavy music.
But then, in 2011, frontman Frank Carter quit the band, something he had long been thinking of doing. An integral part of Gallows’ identity, Carter’s departure struck many onlookers as a fatal blow to the band, but within weeks Wade MacNeil had left Alexisonfire to take his place, and the orchestra played on. Now the band are back with their self-titled third album, and are ready to show the world that Gallows are here to stay.
I Like Music sat down with guitarist Laurent ‘Lags’ Barnard and bassist Stuart Gili-Ross to chat about the new album, a transitional year for the band, their new label Venn Records, and punk in 2012.
“I Like Music because… if it wasn’t for music I’d probably be working in some dead-end job that I hated.” Gallows
ILM: How’s everything going for Gallows?
Lags: Really good!
Stuart: We’re in quite a nice position in that it hasn’t been too long – by our standards – between getting the record finished and cracking on with things. With Grey Britain there was quite a long time between finishing the recording and anything actually starting to happen.
ILM: It’s been almost exactly a year since Wade joined the ranks –
Lags: I think it’s a year to the day since our last show with Frank.
ILM: Looking back on that year, which has obviously been a very transitional one for the band, what things stand out as the highlights, what were the more difficult moments…?
Stuart: It’s been ups and downs. As soon as Wade joined the band we were playing catch-up, getting him to learn the sets: we went straight out to America to do the AP tour with him. That was weird. I wouldn’t say it was an amazing tour for us; the line-up and the kids coming to those shows wasn’t quite us. So there was a bit of a moment there when we were like “ugh, are we doing the right thing or not?” There was a lot of doubt there until we got into the studio and started making this record, and then once the songs started coming together we realised that we do actually have an album here and it’s bangers!
Lags: Our first show this year was at Groezsrock, and it was probably the best festival appearance that Gallows has ever had. It was right in the middle of recording as well, and it gave us a little boost. Ever since Wade joined the band there have always been haters, and it doesn’t really get to you, but you start thinking “what’s the point if all we’re gonna get is people talking shit?” But we’ve always stuck to our guns and we were confident that we’d made the best decision getting Wade in the band, and this album is testament to that. Reactions have been great and we’re so excited to get it out. We’re going fucking crazy cos we just want people to hear it!
Stuart: So to answer the question, it started off on shaky ground for us, but we had that turning point at Groezrock and we haven’t looked back really.
ILM: So the album is coming out on September 10th, but we’ve had our first taste of it in the form of the free download Last June. What made that track the right one to introduce the new Gallows album to the world?
Stuart: It’s quite representative of the album as a whole. It is ‘Gallows’ to us. There are a couple of songs on the album that people might not necessarily think is trademark Gallows, but on the whole we’ve just stripped it down and done our thing. We recorded it in a small studio in Watford, trying to rein in our costs as much as we could and just try and keep it honest and about the songwriting, as opposed to some grand concept with orchestras and stuff. We've done that, and we enjoyed it, but this was about just making a real Gallows record. I think Last June was a statement that we’re still Gallows, we’re still the band that everyone loved in the first place, and even more so now that the whole band wants to be doing this, and shares this vision. And it’s just a banger, isn’t it!
Lags: Every time I heard Last June in the studio it just hit so hard. That’s what you want from a first single. I remember sending everyone an email saying “it’s got to be Last June.” Beginning to end it’s relentless; it’s catchy, it’s got a pretty good solo in there… It’s got everything you’d want in a punchy tune.
Stuart: And lyrically speaking it deals with the G20 protests and police brutality, so we wanted to get it out while that was still fresh in people’s minds.
ILM: Speaking of lyrics, will the new album be as concerned with political and social themes as your past albums?
Stuart: It’s still got a fair bit of social commentary, but our horizons have broadened from London now. Not just because of where we live geographically, but we’ve travelled the world more. So it’s got that social perspective, but it’s on a global scale rather than just about what’s going on in our back yard.
ILM: What was the writing process like for the album?
Stuart: We wiped the slate clean after the Death Is Birth EP and began to write new songs. There are a bunch of songs on the album where Lags had had ideas in the months leading up to recording, and one that I wrote in California and emailed to the guys, but nothing really started to come together until we all got into the studio together. It wasn’t a case of someone emailing entire finished songs and saying “away you go, write some lyrics.” We had a couple of weeks of pre-production either side of Groezrock when we trying to flesh out the songs and do the arrangements. We hadn’t had a finished song until a couple of weeks before we had to start tracking the drums. It was very much a product of us being in a room together.
ILM: Who produced it for you this time around?
Stuart: Steve Sears and Tom Mitchener. They’re friends of ours from years ago. I play in Spycatcher with them. We went to school together. It was literally in a studio in a back yard in Watford.
ILM: The album is coming out on your own label, Venn Records. What’s it like to be masters of your own destiny on that front? What’s felt like the most significant difference from working with a major?
Stuart: We just haven’t had to second-guess anything, or fight for every inch of ground on decisions. It’s been very clear from the moment that we started working with PIAS that they were going to distribute our record and that they wanted us to have complete control. They wanted to sign us as a band and songwriters with a vision, as opposed to something that they could mould into something that’s going to sell a lot of records. And strangely and conversely I think it’s going to be our most successful record because of that.
Lags: With a major label there was definitely a sense of them telling you what to do, even if you don’t really realise it at the time. We made all the decisions ourselves this time.
ILM: Have you got any plans to release other bands through the label?
Stuart: Yeah, we just had a meeting about that before you got here. We’ve definitely got plans to make Venn a label that releases some really, really cool stuff. Some stuff that people might associate with Gallows, and some stuff that might be surprising. It’s early days, but we’re thinking of putting our first release out this year. No contracts have been exchanged or anything, but we’ve definitely got our eye on a couple of bands that we think it would be cool to work with.
ILM: What do you look for in a band that you’d like to work with in that capacity?
Lags: Passion and talent.
Stuart: Just stuff that we like.
Lags: It’s that simple.
Stuart: There are a lot of people from punk-rock bands that have started really successful labels: Fat Wreck, Epitaph… It’s going to be different to that. We don’t just listen to one type of music, and we’ve never belonged to one scene, and I think that’s going to be reflected in what Venn puts out.
ILM: It’s 35 years since The Sex Pistols started the punk revolution in 1977. What does it mean to you guys to be a punk in 2012? Does that legacy still matter?
Lags: When punk first started the whole idea was challenging the listener. That’s what we do. You don’t have to have a Mohawk to be a punk. It still means the same thing: writing music that challenges people.
ILM: And speaking of punk legacies, what do you think about the Refused reunion? Some people have accused them of betraying their legacy and doing it for the money…
Stuart: There are a couple of sides to that. Refused can do what they want. The main thing people have to bear in mind – especially those that may not have been around when Refused were first out – is that at the time no-one gave a fuck. Part of the reason they broke up is because they were touring their arses off and no-one gave a shit. It’s not until ten years after the fact that they've been such an influential band. I guess they felt – and quite rightly so – that they missed the opportunity to tour when people actually cared about their band. So I don’t think they owe it to the world to not tour. When they said “Refused Are Fucking Dead” they wrote that manifesto making it quite clear that they didn’t intend to get back for money, and obviously they’re getting paid to do these reunion shows, but why shouldn’t they? They lost enough money when they were doing it, so why shouldn’t they have fun with it now? If people are still enjoying the music I don’t think it can be seen as a cynical move.
Lags: Not only that, they’re still keeping that DIY element. They played in Toronto last night, and after their show they did another small show in a club called Parts & Labour, which is about the same size as this [very small!] room. So they’ll do these big shows, but for the hardcore kids and punk people they’ll do something else special.
Stuart: They haven’t forgotten where they come from. At least it doesn’t seem that way.
ILM: Looking to the future of Gallows, what do you hope to achieve with this record?
Stuart: We’ve never gone away, but we had to sacrifice a lot of things when Frank didn’t want to be in the band. We had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t really make the most of. There are places that we’d like to tour more – North America, Japan – that we had the chance to tour on previous records but didn’t, because the band wasn’t able to get along. So with this one we’d just like to get back to the stage where people are loving the record and giving us the opportunity to play in these further away places. If we can get back to just playing to as many people who like the record as possible then we’d be happy with that. We’re not after anything more than sharing our music.
ILM: What have you guys been listening to recently?
Lags: Sub Focus, Fleetwood Mac, and everything in between!
Stuart: A lot of Tears For Fears, and the new Feed The Rhino album.
ILM: Any bands we should be keeping an eye out for at this summer’s festivals?
Lags: Marmozets, Pulled Apart By Horses, Brontide…
Stuart: We’re taking Feed The Rhino and Brotherhood Of The Lake out on tour with us next year. They’re part of this new wave of British bands that maybe heard Orchestra Of Wolves and wanted to start a band, which is pretty cool.