Face to face with We Were Lions

 

WeWereLions

 A rush of adrenaline through your veins, massive melodies and emotive vocal performance – We Were Lions deliver all these, and much more, in plentiful. At the moment the guys are gearing up for the release of their newest EP ‘Horizons’ and Rock Britain asked Lloyd Coombes, James Martin, Rob Cole, Phil Lamont and Dan Vinnicombe about everything We Were Lions-wise.

You’ve recently finished your new EP ‘Horizons’ due to be released later.  How did the work at it go? 

JM: Very smoothly – the songs were all written away from the studio and perfected at rehearsals and shows, so once in the studio no time was wasted.  That was our main aim really – efficiency!

LC:  It was weird because we changed our lineup significantly, replacing both guitarists over a few months.  We had some false starts but once we got going, it went so quickly.  This felt a lot more natural than ‘Rebirth’ did, it just flowed.  I personally found it more enjoyable.

PL:  Work with ‘Horizons’ has been refreshingly simple. Shortly after ‘Rebirth’ the band struggled for various reasons, there was a lack of impetus & personally I struggled to be motivated. Marc & Dean left the band shortly after one another leaving Dan, Lloyd & myself to sit down and reevaluate what we wanted to do & how was best to achieve it. I think finding James & Rob has been some sort of musical salvation for us, they’re incredibly easy to work with, and the talent they have borders on offensive. Having settled on our new lineup, writing ‘Horizons’ was frankly easy.

What differs this upcoming EP from your previous effort ‘Rebirth’?

LC:  It’s not so much a different sound as it is a more refined sound.  We’ve always had a heavier side but we worked that into better songwriting.  We identified what we loved about ‘Rebirth’ and a lot of it was the catchiness of certain tracks.  There are a LOT of hooks on ‘Horizons’ that we think people will really get into, and they’re spread nicely across all instruments.

DV:  ‘Horizons’ is better because we have better guitarists, and myself, Phil and Lloyd have all improved.  I think Silver Medal is the best song on ‘Rebirth’ but in my opinion every song on ‘Horizons’ surpasses it!  Heroes had the potential to be epic but I think we all agreed it was a bit rushed and not thought through as well as it could have been!  The great news is we have a number of songs in progress which we all believe is our best work to date so something to look out for in the future but we’ll stick to ‘Horizons’ for now!     

PL:  I think the EP is a little more mature, certainly the songs have better structure & they flow in a very organic nature. A lot of the positives from ‘Rebirth’ are retained & (hopefully) improved upon, but we’ve trimmed the fat off of our songs. ‘Horizons’ is WWL ‘concentrate’ whereas we weren’t critical enough of ourselves for ‘Rebirth’.

The cover art for ‘Horizons’ is stunning!  Does it reflect the EP philosophy in any way? 

JM:  On a basic level yes – it’s a picture of a horizon.  I think I went through around 15 designs for the cover art, which we either rejected (we are a democratic band – everyone has to love what we put out!), or using the intended image would be a copyright violation.  I am a big fan of minimalist cover art – I find it far more striking and eye catching so that’s what I work toward.

LC:   We see it as “broadening our ‘Horizons’”, and setting off on this new chapter with these two new members and a much more distinct sound.  So with that in mind, the open sea kind of symbolises the freedom we have to pick our own path now.

What are your main likes and dislikes about working in the studio?

JM:  Phil and myself are both sound engineers so we looked forward to the technical side of recording – choosing microphones and placements, different amps and how we would process the audio for mixing.  On this EP I used my Marshall JCM2000 for all the overdriven sounds, and for the clean tone I used an AC30 combo, whilst Rob stuck to his Mesa Boogie Double Rectifier.  In terms of dislikes, modern studio practice requires complete separation to get that modern sound so not playing in the same room at the same time – but it does allow you to really analyse what you are playing and the tone you have chosen – I changed a few of my parts there as they were too over the top and a simpler approach worked much better.  

LC:  Likes: That moment where a song clicks.  Dislikes: It gets hot and sweaty sometimes.

RC:  The best thing about working in the studio is knowing that this is the final stage, all the hard work and effort we’ve all put into creating the songs can finally be recorded.  I find it so rewarding when something that you were singing or humming in your head one day is now ready for everybody to listen to.  It excites me knowing that other people get to hear our ideas but even more excitingly I get to hear them myself, where I have only heard them in a small room with 5 guys thrashing out these epic tunes, playing far too loud for us to actually hear the dynamics of the songs.  It’s nice to listen to those ideas after they’ve been recorded and gone through the whole production process.  The only negative I can take from working in the studio is the pressure to get exactly the sound that you want or that you’re hearing in your head and sometimes you can’t always achieve that.  

DV:  The only real dislike about working in the studio is that I have to play to a click track.  Even if I play the same as I do with the band playing along it just seems to lose some feeling!  However, after having the experience of recording ‘Rebirth’ I was a lot more comfortable when recording ‘Horizons’ so my style of drumming was captured a lot better.  The main ‘like’ to working in the studio is simply that I’d only ever be there if I am recording an album or EP which is an exciting time!  

PL:  I engineered all the recording sessions for ‘Horizons’ (with plenty of help from James) so it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for all of us I think. Personally, I find it incredibly cathartic to strip these songs down & build them up piece by piece. In the studio we can exert much more control on our sound and really sculpt what we want to present to the public. James & Rob were free to stick in extra guitar licks and just add some flourishes in to build something bigger than we can present live. The downside though is editing, I can’t emphasise enough just how boring editing recordings can be. Watching paint dry has nothing on listening to one snare beat on repeat for an hour!

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What does the songwriting process in We Were Lions look like?

JM:  I tend to write parts at home and then bring them to the rehearsal and we perfect them there.  We have completely rewritten songs or discarded them entirely – we may love one particular riff that stays and we rewrite around that.  My favourite experience writing was when we put Guadalajara together; I came up with the intro riff and the verse parts and Lloyd had a chorus from a song he had written previously which was also in D Major.  We got to the point after the second chorus and had something written that weakened the song.  The riff that jumps out now was written for a different song but I started playing it and it worked out brilliant so we kept it.  There is also a time signature change to 6/8 I believe for the breakdown there, and the use of some dissonance which I love!   I’m also a big fan of TC Electronics effects, specifically the Flashback delay and HOF reverb, both of which I use a lot to create a wash behind my guitar.  I am a big fan of albums that sound like a band playing together, such as Appetite for Destruction which to my knowledge was recorded as the band in a room together with leads and vocals being over-dubbed after – so you get this togetherness.  Saying that, I am a big fan of “studio albums” like In Flames’ A Sense of Purpose which benefited from modern technology in how it’s put together, but you still get the vibe of these guys all writing together.  

LC:  It usually starts with James or Rob (guitarists) having a few riffs that work together.  They bounce off each other nicely and Phil just slams the bass right in.  Dan does whatever he wants for a bit, then he gets our feedback.  We then go section by section.  Vocals come last nine times out of ten.  I have pages and pages of lyrics so might jump in with a chorus and then change that to a verse.  It’s a proper team effort though, which is nice.  We give each other feedback every step of the way and always try each other’s suggestions.  That’s how songs grow, from feedback and input.

RC:  Generally song ideas will come from either myself (Rob), or James; we both prefer to write at home.  We’ll come up with our guitar parts and record them quickly, send them to everyone via text and if they like it then we take it to the studio, if not we scrap it.  We have a policy that all 5 members must like the idea otherwise we don’t even bother with it.  We tend to complete the structure of the song before Lloyd puts vocals to it.  Phil and Dan will gel us all together and that is how we create our music.  

DV:  The song writing process is a bit of mix really as sometimes either Rob or James will come up with something and then me and Phil will join in, Lloyd will start singing along and then after a bit of polishing off job done!!  There have been times when it’s all started as an acoustic song then brought to the studio once written and ready to rock it up.  The hardest thing is when you have a great chorus and a great verse but they just don’t work together!  You do get the good side of having two starting points for songs but sometimes after spending weeks and weeks on a song to then say no it’s not working can be disheartening.

PL:  Song writing is quite democratic in We Were Lions. It tends to be led by James or Rob bringing an idea to the rest of us, or perhaps Lloyd with a vocal melody. From then on we all tweak/add/remove parts until we’ve reached something we’re all happy with.

What do you want your listeners to take away from your music?

JM: Integrity and that we worked hard and that it shows through in the music.

LC:  Listeners should take away that we’re (in my opinion) getting better with each release.  By that logic the next release will be even better!  But seriously, there are some very personal lyrics in there and to be able to share that through ‘Horizons’ is huge catharsis, so they should know that them listening makes me feel a whole lot better about what we do

RC:  Although some of the lyrics are dark and have come from an unhappier place or perhaps sadder memories, our overall ‘sound’ is very uplifting.  The lyrics and music are very contrasting; maybe it’s a message that bad times aren’t the be all and end all.  At the end of the day different listeners have different emotions towards music, as long as they enjoy the songs we’re putting out and they can take something positive from that then specifically what they are taking away from it is irrelevant.  As long as they want to keep listening to our music then I think our goal has been achieved.  

DV:  We want the listeners to go away with our songs in their head!

PL:  A smile.  It’s as cheesy as you like, but if we can induce happiness in just one person then we’ve done our job.  

If you were to choose five most influential albums in your life, which ones would you go for? How did they influence you?

JM: Bring Me The Horizon – There Is A Hell… – I know I should pick a classic like Appetite For Destruction but this album is amazing.  I like how the sound matured on this album, I love the blatant post-rock influences that turn into super heavy breakdowns, and the use of effects to create soundscapes.  Overall it’s a cracking modern metal album and a thesis in musical fusion at the heavier end of the spectrum.  Standout track: ‘Fuck’ as it includes Josh from YMAS!

LC:  Brand New – Deja Entendu.  It was like nothing I’d ever heard before and completely opened the door for me into more experimental stuff, alt-rock, even pop punk.  Prior to that I had no idea lyrics could mean so much, and the vocal arrangements are spot on too.

RC:  My influential album would have to be ‘Blackbird’ by ‘Alter Bridge’.  Although their sound and our sound are completely different, they too have dark lyrics with an uplifting feel.  I imitate their style of writing in most cases.  They can blow your mind with a hard riff or a heavy section but you’ll still be humming along the guitar melody and that is exactly how I try and write.  I’ll usually write two guitar parts, one will be a hard riff or punchy chords, and the other will be a catchy melodic lead part.  I believe that a song should sound epic and catchy without vocals, if you have a song that is fantastic without any vocal parts at all, imagine how good it will be when vocals are added.  

DV:  Too many albums to pick just one sorry!

PL:  I think Issues by Korn probably. That was one of the first ‘metal’ albums I listened to and it just blew my mind. At that time pretty much everyone around me was listening to Beverly Knight and the Vengaboys, & this just stood out. Issues is cacophonic, wild, unapologetic & responsible for every bad decision I’ve made since 2000. I love it.

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What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to? What defines a really memorable, fantastic live show for you?

JM: Architects at Koko in Camden March 2014.  It was spectacular.  I also took my granddad to see Eric Clapton at Hyde Park a few years before he passed away (my granddad, Clapton is still going strong) which was brilliant – my granddad introduced me to playing music, he played in a blues band when he was younger and bought me my first guitar when I was 14.  That sort of answers the question below partially!

LC:  A Day To Remember, Brixton Academy, London.  It’s a while back now.  I don’t go to as many shows as I’d like to.  It helps that they’re one of my all-time favourite bands but the set list was perfect; everything I wanted from each of their albums, and some old tracks for long-time fans as well.  That’s what a great gig is about, balance.

DV: Metallica at Download Festival – they played the entire Master Of Puppets album – incredible!  For me a great show is simply defined by how well the band capture the crowd’s attention regardless of location or size of venue.  

PL:  Has to be Tenacious D last year. Since then any show without an inflatable phallus is just boring.  

How did you take up music and what was your earliest experience of making music?

JM: I think I am going to win the trophy for the longest answer here, and also the oddest.  In year 8 at school (so 12-13) I was in a Jamaican Steel Drum band, which got me into playing drums – about a year later when I realised I suck at playing the drums I took up guitar (see above).  I studied GCSE Music and A-Level Music Tech, and then for a Diploma at SAE London when I was 22 but never had a guitar lesson (it shows).  Whilst at school I was involved in the orchestra and the choir – basically I fell in love with music and performing.  My music teacher, Lucy Sykes, was without a doubt the best teacher I have ever had.  She arranged tours for the choir and orchestra – we went on trips to Prague, Barcelona and Venice and in my time as an A-Level student we put on a 3-night run of Les Miserablés and the next year, Oklahoma, whilst also planning summer, winter and Christmas shows.  At the time I was in the teenager phase and would religiously listen to only metal – bands like Slipknot (first gig – London Arena).  Our music technician, Stuart Briner, showed me that having an eclectic taste didn’t dilute your musical interest but strengthened it – I went out and bought Fat of the Land (Prodigy) and What’s The Story, Morning Glory (Oasis) and started to discover music that was outside the world of metal.  I’m not the biggest fan of pop music and feel certain artists are in it for the wrong reasons, but outside of that I can listen and appreciate pretty much anything.  An artist I discovered a few years ago that has really changed how I look at music is Tom Waits.  The man is a genius and his approach to music is so different.

LC:  I started writing lyrics aged 10 and started singing those lyrics with my best mate (who I started WWL with) aged 11.  I started out singing pop music in my lounge really young.  I don’t think I was very good though.

DV:  17 years ago my best friend bought a drum kit and had some lessons.  Once he’d learnt a bit he showed me a few bits and it came really naturally to me.  I was about to choose what GCSE’s to do, so disregarding what little experience I had I chose music to my stunned parents amazement, not to mention to the music teacher who didn’t want a naughty boy in his class!!  After showing them what I’d learnt I got the approval and started to have lessons at the start of my final 2 years at school.  The lessons only lasted a short while however as I was more interested in playing along to my favorite songs than reading scores of music.  Which explains my rather unique drumming style!  As I’ve always played to a range of genres whilst at the studio over the years I do have a mix of pop, rock and metal going on which helps towards giving WWL our overall unique sound.  Regarding recording, my first real experience was doing ‘Rebirth’ which to be honest was one of the best weeks of my life!   I learnt a lot and put it to good use when recording ‘Horizons’.  

PL:  Like all good bass players (possibly just Flea) I started out by playing trumpet at school, then French Horn.  Feeling bad that most people thought I was infinitely cooler than the kids who could play the Sweet Child O’Mine solo behind their heads I decided to even the playing field and learn bass later on.

What is your main goal concerning We Were Lions?

JM: Obviously we would love it to be successful and to be able to tour with the bands we look up to and play to bigger crowds.  

LC:  World Domination.  We’d just like people to hear us.  The love we get via Twitter and Facebook from the other side of the planet is just crazy to us.  People really loved ‘Rebirth’, and so I guess our aim would be just to keep making music that people want to listen to.  That’s all we can do!

RC:  The same as every other band.  Create the music that we all love and want to listen to ourselves, put it out there for the world to hear and play live shows to as many people as possible.  

DV:  Ultimately we love playing our music to people!  We’re getting a good following and the crowds at our local gigs are building.  We are also seeing a lot of similar faces, which is a good sign!  I think to make a career out of playing our music would be a dream come true for all of us, not to mention all the extra time we’d get to spend on writing new material and playing more gigs!  

PL:  Have a private jet, own an island & have our own brand of craft ales.

 

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