Rock

Awake At Last – Life/Death/Rebirth

Thursday 3rd August 2017

Track Listing:

1. Purgatorium
2. Analysis Paralysis
3. Dark Waltz
4. White Rabbit
5. Constellations
6. Reflections

Awake At Last are a band that I always get excited about.  They first contacted me in 2015 following the release of their King of the World EP and I really enjoyed their sound.  It’s always great to hear about bands and artists from the other side of the pond so I had to interview Awake At Last to find out more.  Since our initial chat things have been moving forward really well for the band; they contacted me again in 2016 to let me know they’d just wrapped up their next EP following a successful Indigogo campaign, and here we are now less than a year later and we can get our ears around their latest offering Life/Death/Rebirth.

Initially when I first listened to the album it reminded me straight away why I really enjoy this band.  So much energy has gone in to the release and there’s a clear progression from their previous material which has been well built upon.  I remember when Never Be A Memory was released, their first single in a couple of years since the King of the World EP and at the time it was apparent how much Awake At Last were evolving.

Speaking with guitarist Imran Xhelili last year ahead of the release he explained that “We’ve definitely pushed ourselves more musically – the guitars are definitely doing a lot more as are the drums, bass and vocal melodies. There’s a lot more energy on the new EP and we’re all confident in the change of direction the progression of our sound, since we would never want to release the same CD twice. We all came together a lot more on the song writing as a full band and were able to blend our influences into this new direction of Awake At Last.”

Opening track Purgatorium provides a great opportunity for lead singer Vincent Torres to showcase the range and quality of his well-established vocals.  The chilling opening is theatrical, with a gradual build-up and a soft sound inviting you in, and then when the progressiveness kicks in all hell breaks loose and you’re thrown straight in to a journey of an EP that tells a story of redemption.  Analysis Paralysis has a dark intro with mighty guitar work and a tasty riff, and opens the way for realisation that you’re in for a much heavier release, and lyrically it’s very poignant too.

It can be really difficult trying to stand out in such a competitive industry, but to me Awake At Last have always gone beyond their ambitions to make the band work, and it’s clear they’re not scared to push in to a genre that others have yet to dare tread.  Dark Waltz and White Rabbit are forcefully vigorous tracks and fill the release with a display that shows they’re not scared to move out of their comfort zone.  I especially enjoy the expression in the lyrics for White Rabbit, with Vincent declaring that “I’m not heartless I just use my heart less” it’s commanding, powerful and relatable.

Constellations is a howling track, and possibly one of my favourites on the EP.  The way in which the drums and guitars work together creates an absolute storm, and how they work the different paces the track goes through is intricate.  I was once told by a friend that drummers don’t get enough attention in bands and this has always stuck with me, so I have to make sure I point out how the drumming really stands out and accelerates in this track.  Keeping up the pace, Reflections brings the grunge and is a lot edgier, but after professing that “we care to much or we don’t care enough, I’m sick of the concept of falling in love” it takes us on a steadier step towards the end of the EP.

Life/Death/Rebirth is a solid release that’s tightly polished and one that Awake At Last should be proud of.  They continue to go from strength to strength and it would be great to see a full album next, or even have these guys signed.  They work hard, tour hard, and do everything they can to make the band work and get their name out there; it’s time these guys were snapped up to a label!  So if you’re in the neighbourhood looking for something new to grace your speakers, give Awake At Last a spin, you won’t be dissapointed.

Connect with Awake At Last via their Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Walkway – Interview

Tuesday 11th July 2017

Having recently been contacted by Chris Ready who is the lead singer for rock band Walkway regarding the release of their 3rd studio album WWIII, the band immediately piqued my interest as not only is rock one of my most favourite genres, but they’ve been touring for almost 10 years and opened up for some of the biggest names in rock (Status Quo, The Darkness, Black Stone Cherry and Slade to name a few), yet this was the first time I was hearing of the band.  However, after checking out their track ‘Mission Impossible’ which I was certain I’d had actually heard before, I decided that it was only best that I asked for an interview as it’s clear these guys have quite a story to tell.  This includes their album containing a tribute to the late Rick Parfitt which they recorded with Status Quo drummer John Coghlan, so make sure you check that out too.

Your 3rd album ‘WWIII’ is due for release on the 8th July. How are you feeling about the release, and what can be expected from it?

WWIII is a step up from anything we’ve done before and we can’t wait to release it to the world. I think the fans are going to absolutely love it and be pleasantly surprised with how much bigger this sounds than our previous albums.

How does this album compare to your previous material, and are there any notable differences or developments?

Top Shelf Content (our first album) was a classic rock album through and through and Streetwise (our second album) was a bit more commercial. WWIII contains a mix from the two, however all in all the record is heavier than our previous albums. We always aim to make each song/album better than the previous and I think that shows on WWIII – the songs and production as a whole are a real step up and I think that comes from how we have matured as artists.

What’s your writing process as a band? How do you all come together to create the final track, and how do you know when a song is ready?

We have worked with a range of very successful and experienced songwriters in the past, however the majority of our songs are written by myself (Chris) and James. With us both being brothers we have a great understanding of each other – James will usually lay down the music and I put lyrics to it. Once we have the main basis we will then take it to rehearsal and work through it with the guys to come up with the finished result.

You’ll be featuring a tribute to the late Rick Parfitt on your album, which you recorded with Status Quo drummer John Coghlan. How did that come about?

We toured with Status Quo over the last couple of years and Rick particularly became a fan of the band. We were going to be working with Rick this year on his solo project – myself (Chris) and James had written some tracks for his solo album, however the opportunity unfortunately never went ahead due to his passing on Christmas Eve. It was a real blow for us in both ways in that he was such a nice guy and fan of the band, and also that the project never went any further. We felt that we had to do a tribute of some sort on the album and we thought that what better way than to record a cover of one of Rick’s Quo songs, Rain. Our Manager then had the idea to contact original Status Quo drummer John Coghlan to see whether he would be interested in playing on the track and he was more than happy to do so. It added that little extra authentic tribute to the track.

Who are your biggest musical influences, and how have they encouraged you and helped to develop your sound?

We all have different individual influences, however as a whole the band take influence from artists like Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Nickelback, Van Halen. As the singer my two main vocal influences are Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) and Steve Perry (Journey) – two incredible voices.

Are there any tracks in particular that you’re looking forward to getting out there and also performing live on your upcoming tour?

It’s difficult to choose any particular tracks off the new album as we’re so proud of everything on the record – all of the tracks are going to be great fun to play.

This year you’ll be reaching your 10th year milestone together as a band, and you’ll have performed a staggering 1000 shows. How do you find the experience of being on the road and performing live, and what are your personal highlights?

It’s quite a milestone to reach 1000 shows. We’re constantly touring and play around 120 shows every year as we take on the old fashioned work ethic of constantly touring anywhere and everywhere. Our show highlights have got to be the Quo shows, particularly with Rick’s passing, those shows have become that bit more special, but we played some amazing venues to some huge crowds and it was a great experience to play with one of the iconic legendary British rock bands.

You’ve opened up for many big names over the years. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most and why?

Again the Quo shows, but we’ve also supported The Darkness, Black Stone Cherry and Slade to name only a few. To play with these artists who we look up to is something really special and something that we will never forget.

As soon as I heard your track ‘Mission Impossible’ straight away I knew I’d heard you played before on Planet Rock.  How are you finding the response to your music, and have you been picked up by many stations?

We haven’t actually been played on Planet Rock, YET! But it’s nice to think that Mission Impossible sounds like something you would hear on the radio. The tracks from the new album which we’ve been sending out to radio shows and all other press contacts absolutely love the new material and we’ve had nothing but praise which is great feedback.

[Editors note: I’m still convinced I’ve heard this track played out on the radio.  However, an email is currently flying its way over to Planet Rock HQ in the hope that Murray J plays it on his request show]

Are you managing your own website and social media accounts, and how important is it for you to connect with fans this way?

We do everything ourselves and are very switched on when it comes to social media as it is so important and essential these days. We have such an incredible fan base and we love to keep them updated with everything we do.

Connect with Walkway via their Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Rat Face Lewey – Interview

Thursday 9th March 2017

Every so often a gem lands in my mailbox and this week it comes in the form of alternative grunge rockers Rat Face Lewey. They are an unsigned band originally from Derby but are currently working on new material and performing as many live shows as possible around London and the UK.  It’s always great to hear from bands directly and after checking out their material I could certainly hear a band with great potential, and with something very inspiring about their drive to push their music further.

Have you ever been drunk and decided to start a band?  I think we’ve all had that ambition, intoxicated or not, so I caught up with Jonny to find out more about the band and how their dream is becoming reality.

Tell me about how the band started and at what point it really clicked that you wanted to pursue music as a career.  You mention that a drunken night in Manchester fueled the idea, but making the decision to move to London sounds as though it wasn’t just an alcohol ambition.

Ha! There was certainly some other things going on at that time. Looking back it was a hazy period. I was living in Manchester and just wanted to be playing music with people I could connect with. I played with a few different bands in Manchester most notably, the Electric Kools, but I wanted to be playing gigs on a Wednesday night and be a part of a music community. London on the whole gives you this and to me it’s the greatest city in the world after Amsterdam and San Francisco. I love Manchester, but I didn’t want regrets I don’t want to talk my life away or let opportunities slip. Me and my brother were in a pub in Manchester and we decided to go for it. We had always played music separately and around that time I had started to fill in on guitar for some of his bands shows in London. I moved from Manchester, our original virtuoso drummer Ash moved from Nottingham and we moved in with my brother in South London. The first year was amazing, playing gigs, recording, hanging out together, rap battling and loving the moments. We are really focused on writing at the moment and we are in the practice room fine tuning our songs ready to road test over the Summer.

When did you all start playing music and have you been in bands previously?

I started playing guitar at 14 and taught myself how to play songs off Nevermind and some Oasis stuff. I used to have piano lessons when I was 6 or 7, which at the time I didn’t appreciate, but that early exposure to melodies and music has definitely had an effect on me. My brother, Mav our chaotic bass player, was a big influence on the bands I listened too. I would hear Nada Surf, Nirvana, John Frusciante and the Manic Street Preachers through him and probably annoyed him by becoming a huge fan of these bands and telling him how great this or that album was, which he probably already knew and politely listened to me bang on about. He started playing bass when he was younger and has played in Origin and Mad Mush and played gigs around Europe. He can play any instrument and is the backbone of our band and his stage presence is off the charts. He loves bands like Aerosmith, Oasis, the Chili Peppers and he also produces his own solo music.

How would you describe ‘Rat Face Lewey’ and your music to anyone hearing you for the first time?

It’s pure adrenaline. Honest, simple and catchy. I try and focus on the melody as much as possible and have started to play less frantic solos on the guitar and focus on creating big atmospheres and grooves. If you saw us live you would probably go away thinking it was either a complete train wreck or a masterpiece, it depends on the gig, but we put our heart and soul into every show to ensure people feel something from it and people get their moneys worth.

What music did you grow up listening to and who are your inspirations? You say you’re inspired by “real music”, but what would you say that is?

On the whole I feel music more than I listen to it. If a song or a piece music moves me makes my hair stand up or wakes something up inside of me then I’m drawn to it. That can be anything from Classical to Rock to Punk to computer game or film sound tracks. It’s real when it connects with me. My Mount Rushmore of music would probably be Kurt Cobain, John Frusciante, Matthew Caws and Mark Oliver Everett. You probably won’t find another person on the planet that would name those four and I would love to see it! There’s many more that are more obvious, like Brian Wilson, the Beatles and QOTSA. Recently, I’ve been listening to Warpaint, Baroness, Rush and Gojira.

You’re planning to release new material in September.  What can we expect to hear and how will it compare to your previous releases?

The heavy songs will be intense and in the same vein as ‘Digital Prison’ our last single release and the lighter songs have been heavily influenced by songs off ‘High/Low’, the first Nada Surf album. I have some big vocal ideas in my head and have been training my voice to sing in different styles. The songs I write are all very different and the fact that we are a 3 piece band gives us so much freedom and space to experiment. I would love to have a style and be able to write a whole record with a certain concept or approach. I love Mark Oliver Everett of the Eels who is a genius in this regard. As soon as an Eels song starts you know who it is. However, he can take you in so many different directions. He can write 100 great melodies and lyrics and then write 100 more.

What’s your writing process as a band, and how do you all come together with your ideas to get the finished track?  Do you write collectively or does someone come up with the underlying pieces first?

I usually come to practice with a song idea or a few riffs, melodies and a chorus. We then come together as a band and arrange the song. I usually write little jigsaw pieces of music and then need someone else to help me put the puzzle together. Sometimes it works out great and sometimes your left chasing a song for years. The best thing is when it comes together as a band and everyone contributes and brings their own style to the table. You record the rough demo in the practice room and everyone is buzzing. I read Josh Homme say once that there’s already one of you in the band and I completely agree with this.

Have you received any airplay on mainstream radio and how are you finding the response to your material so far?

We receive the most plaudits from our fellow bands and musicians at our gigs. We have been played on XFM and receive heavy streaming activity from Spotify, Soundcloud and Apple and the song ‘Eagle Eyes Killing Strangers’, is heavily streamed from Israel. I love the modern world. Streaming and connecting with people. 10-15 years ago you would still be duplicating CD’s and praying someone walks into the local music shop and buys them. Although Napster killed the ‘business’ it also paved the way for everyone to have a go and you can find great music you like very quickly.

Who do you work with to create your music videos, and who comes up with the ideas for them? Is this something you do yourselves or do you have a team you work with?

Our recent videos for ‘Dead in the Ground’ and ‘Digital Prison’ were directed and edited by my super talented friend and acclaimed Director Jonathan K Harris. He has a great eye and we share a very similar taste in music, he also owns a Fender Stratocaster so I completely trust his vision. We recorded these two videos at the Buckle Factory on Seven Sisters Road in one day and we were very proud of the results. We have been discussing videos for our future releases and have come up with a concept we think people will love.

What live dates have you got scheduled for the year and where can we catch you performing?

You can check our webpage for tour dates. We are aiming to start playing in late April to road test the new songs. We are different to every other band live and once you see it you will know what I mean.

Do you have an ultimate aim for the band, and where do you hope your music will take you?

We played a gig in Hackney once, and at the end of our set a young woman climbed on stage and shouted down the mic ‘THIS IS WHAT MUSIC IS SUPPOSED TO BE!!!’ I want to record and play music that sticks in peoples heads and write songs that make people feel the same way I do about music. We want to be booked on festivals and have our music exposed to the biggest audiences possible.

Where there’s chaos there’s opportunity.

Connect with Rat Face Lewey via their Website, Facebook, Twitter.