Monthly Archives: May 2015

Arcane Roots Interview

I was ridiculously lucky enough to be able to speak to the top guys in Arcane Roots shortly before their show at the Portland Arms in Cambridge last month. Here’s what they said:

Hello. Thanks very much for agreeing to sit here and talk to me for this possibly very boring interview.

Andrew: No worries at all! Hey, it’s a nice day.

Exactly, that’s all that matters! So, several shows into the ‘megataurus rex’, how’s it going so far?

Andrew: It’s been great! Every tour we’ve been so lucky to be in a position where we are so surprised every time. It’s kinda silly I suppose… I’d like to think when you get to a certain stage it’s no longer surprising. But yeah we’ve played a lot of places we’ve never played before so far, and even the really random places, everyone’s been so welcoming

So is this the longest tour you’ve ever done?

Andrew: Oh my god yeah, I think it’s nearly over 2 months yeah so we’ve gotta kind of pace ourselves. But it’s been quite nice, we’re really lucky to play with bands who are good friends and we all look after each other. You know you have your days where you’re just not quite into it, or you have your day where you’re not feeling very well, or a day when you’re just really achy and tired, and everyone else just kind of helps you out.

You’re on tour with Black Peaks and Gallery Circus at the moment. You’ve said before you like to pick your support yourselves, so what was it that drew you to these guys?

Andrew: Yeah absolutely. Well we’d played with Black Peaks for a couple of dates before and our manager Matt who now manages them recommended them to us, and when we heard them we were like “we really like this”, “this band sounds really cool, lets have these guys”. Matt gave us the heads up that things were gonna be happening with them, which is important because they can’t just be your mates you know, they have to be doing something, and since they’ve been doing really well it validated our case for getting them on board. They truly are our favourite tours when everyone’s just really nice and we can hang out together and eat together and things like that. Gallery Circus, our booking agent actually recommended them to us, sometimes they send through lists of bands that he comes across. Solemn Sun had to pull out of the second half of the tour so now we’ve got Carnival Kids joining in.

Ok so switch it round, you supported Muse on some of their European dates last year which was obviously a pretty colossal thing to get the opportunity to do, what did you take from that?

Andrew: So much. I don’t think it’s ever really sunk in and I don’t think it ever will. It was such a quick succession of dates and such a very different way to play a gig, very comfortable, kind of isolated, and even though there’s that many people it’s a very quiet gig. With 80,000 people in front of you, they’re just kind of like pixels. For Muse when they all sing a long to every single song I’m sure that is absolutely incredible. I think for us that summer we supported all our favourite bands and watched them deliver world class shows every single night, and we watched them side stage every single night, and did our homework. I think it really affirmed for us as a band that this is what we want to do for the rest of our lives. Even just the comradery and spending time in those beautiful countries.

So you wouldn’t be content settling for tours of this size forever?

Andrew: Erm, I don’t think that the rock trajectory – if you know what I mean – is something that’s part of my plan, to do gigs and then do arenas and then do stadiums or whatever. I mean I love the idea of a stadium because it means you’ve made enough money to really take the music you make and spend that money on making it 3D. Literally have ALL the lights, ALL the artwork, everything. I watched the DVD of Coldplay live 2012 and it’s just phenomenal.

Yeah the wristbands were a genius idea

Andrew: Oh my god yeah exactly, and it just unites everyone, creed or colour, everyone’s in, they’ve got the wristband and you can just see everyone. That DVD really did have such a big effect on me, and what I wanted to aspire to. So I definitely like the idea of that, but I don’t know I’ve never really thought of us actually playing a massive arena. Basically I just want to do what we do better, that’s the real emphasis. I’d like to think that through some kind of loophole we could somehow reach that 3D stadium feel before we actually got to the stadium. I think it’s more important that we achieve something more uniting, and as well just doing something really different with the music and looking at ways to make our shows more entertaining and more effective.

You’ve been playing some new songs on this tour, with a new record coming out soon, hopefully extremely soon?

Andrew: Yes, well, I think September

Ok I guess we can just about wait that long. What’s it like playing a new song, because I’d imagine there’s a part of you that wishes people had heard the songs before you play them?

Andrew: There’s a little bit of worry, and it definitely taxes my voice and my muscles more as I’m thinking about it and not yet at that stage where I don’t really have to think about what I’m playing. Obviously there’s new vocals that I’ve not really sung before, and even though there are probably older songs that are higher and harder but new songs always wear down on me a lot more. Usually I’m really excited to play them though so I rock out even harder and get really tired! But for this record it was really imperative to us to consider that we do actually have a proper audience in front of us for every show, not just the big ones like London, Birmingham and Manchester. We’re playing fairly random places and we’re getting a pretty sizeable audience at all those places and that really crept into the writing process. We want to have a show, going back to the Coldplay thing, where everyone can get involved and really stay on board with it. Especially playing with Muse I was really aware of people who hadn’t heard our music before, you know there are loads of bits that can kick you off the groove, and unless you know the song you wouldn’t know what to do at that one stage. So this time round we wanted to kind of reverse engineer the songs, to have a moment that we wanted to achieve live, and then work backwards. Actually this record I would say that people do react more to the new songs, they do exactly what it is we wanted when we wrote the songs

So when you wrote the new record did you have a set motive? Were you writing it for a live performance?

Andrew: Very much so yeah. Before now live wasn’t really factored in, if we were excited by something we would just do it. But now the things that are really fun to play live are becoming more and more apparent. Something can just really work live, it can be the hardest thing to play ever, or the simplest thing in the world, it either does work or it doesn’t. It’ll be the case for the next album, and the single that’s coming out hopefully in the next couple of weeks, I just want to play a song where people jump up and down the whole time, there’s just a groove, and there’s just euphoria, and fire, and it’s just explosive. I wanted to come back from this kind of break we’ve been on, when people would say “oh we thought you were going to be poppier, heavier, and Biffy Clyro” and whatever, and just be like “here we are”. We have so many songs that go “Bit… Thing… Other thing… Bit… Another bit… Fast bit… Slow bit”, but I wanted a song where the mirror-ball comes down from the sky, and we can all just stand back for just two seconds and appreciate that we are playing a gig, and it’s just… magic. And that’s exactly what’s happened, we get to that bit that we wrote, we’re not rocking out, we’re just standing there and the music is just doing what it’s doing. For the single in particular, people just jump up and down, even if they’ve never heard the song before, they just jump up and down the whole time, even in Europe it happened when we toured with Enter Shikari. I couldn’t be happier and more proud of the songs we’ve got, and it seems like the audiences are genuinely really enjoying them

The London shows. That’s a pretty brilliant idea if I may say so (The first sees the band performing debut mini-album Left Fire in full, while the second will feature a set-list put together by fans). What’s the thinking behind them?

Andrew: Well it was actually our booking agent’s idea, he asked if we wanted to do something a bit different, and we just always want to be doing something different. For a long time we’ve been looking for somewhere to play where we could potentially dress the venue or do something unusual, so he was like “why don’t you do two really small shows, but do them completely differently?”. So we’ve asked that no one reviews the first show, and one of the main issues with playing London shows is that I should be having the best time of my life, but I spend it doing lots of press. I mean I’m really happy to talk to anyone, but in London it’s just ridiculous and I usually end up wearing out my voice before I’ve even played the show. We just wanted it to be us in amongst the crowd. It feels like ‘Left Fire’ was so long ago now and with this new record it feels like we’re really doing what we want to do as a band and really achieving what we want to achieve, and I’m so so proud of it. So it feels quite fitting that we’ll do one show where we do some of our old stuff and some of our new stuff, and I think we’ll try and play ‘Left Fire’ in a kind of updated form, because I didn’t want to do it exactly like-for-like as I think it asks for a bit too much comparison, and I don’t feel like people have come to hear the CD, they’ve come to hear us play it. There’s better riffs in there now anyway. And yeah the second show started out from a really weird idea when we were talking and wondering what everyone’s favourite song to hear live would actually be. I would think it would be ‘You Are’, but we genuinely didn’t know, so thought it would be nice to hear from people and see what people wanted, and it would work as a learning curve for ourselves. It’s nice to open yourself up and just say “hey what do you guys want?”. Usually I’m not in the vibe when it comes to London because there’s so much going on with family and friends and stuff, and I usually find those shows really difficult even though, the second we stand on the stage we feel SO good because of the audience. So we’ve decided for that show that it should only be about the audience and not about anything else, so I’m really excited to play them. I’m excited to play some really sweaty shows and just get in amongst our fans.

Awesome, well thanks very much.

Andrew: No worries at all. Can we just hear from Adam briefly?

Adam: Yep, food’s sorted

Andrew: Jack, what do you have to say?

Jack: I’m looking forward to dinner

Andrew: What did you order?

Jack: I ordered the falafel burger with houmous on the side

Andrew: That’s really strong

Excellent choice

Andrew: What did you order Adam?

Adam: Well originally I went for the chilli nachos, but they don’t do any form of chilli, and that was why I was not present in the interview

Andrew: But how does that make you feel about the show?

Adam: I’m just concentrating on the show

Andrew: Stop thinking about the show and start thinking about the gig

Adam: I’m a professional

Jack: It doesn’t matter what he eats

Adam: Energy goes in, energy comes out, it’s never lost

Andrew: Just redirected



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Arcane Roots, Black Peaks & Gallery Circus // Live Review @ Portland Arms, Cambridge

Riffs: The Portland Arms probably hasn’t seen as many gurn-inducing riffs as it did on Thursday night for a very long time. Arcane Roots are currently on their biggest tour ever, appropriately dubbed the ‘megataurus rex’, and came to Cambridge with support from the equally eminent Black Peaks and Gallery Circus.

Despite the fairly sparse crowd, Gallery Circus opened with hugely endearing vigour, and quickly exploded into a remarkable set. The Geordie twins made the stage look inadequate, frantically jittering from one corner to the other, while thoroughly unpredictable and intriguing sounds blasted from the brothers’ respective weapons. Literally stand-up drumming twinned with futuristic rock n’ roll-esque guitar riffs made for a captivating show that intensified exponentially. The beaming pair announced their departure with one final show of their almost unparalleled on-stage chemistry, the final song featuring – not for the first time – their mastery of the stop/start antics that so many would find near impossible.

Image courtesy of Jonathan Dadds

Black Peaks have experienced something of a meteoric rise of late, and are making several festival appearances this summer, which will only improve their chances of blowing the heads off as many people as possible. Head-banging is nigh on impossible to avoid while watching these guys. Gargantuan bass lines command the sound, while brutally powerful drums, furiously heavy guitar and a scream that makes Roger Daltry sound like a gurgling baby, make for a colossal show. New song ‘Set In Stone’ is particularly impressive, with front-man Will Gardner ominously staring above our heads before erupting into another almost overwhelmingly deafening scream. The inescapable prowess of these Brighton boys is astonishing during their closing track and main single ‘Glass Built Castles’. If you want to witness god-like power in musical form, go and see these guys, you won’t regret it.

Image courtesy of Sophia Groves @SophiaAGroves

As Arcane Roots take the stage in front of a now adequately warmed up crowd, the realisation that the quality of the evening can still get better is a heavenly one. Starting off with the first single from their 2013 album ‘Blood & Chemistry’, ‘Slow’ is an instantly recognisable opener that immerses you in their complex and intense sound from the very first chord. Despite it’s evident intricacy, the performance is flawless, and we are quickly escorted into ‘Sacred Shapes’. Immaculate pinch harmonics bring a well-deserved smile to lead-guitarist and vocalist Andrew Groves, who was clearly having an awful lot of fun, and his ensuing burst of rock-fuelled energy transfers that fun into the already gleeful audience.

Image courtesy of Carla Mundy @CarlaMundy

‘Over and Over’ comes next, their most recent release from last year, the crowd bounces along with it’s massively sing-a-longable chorus and infectious verse riff, exhibiting the Surrey three piece’s song writing ability brilliantly. A modest build up leads into ‘Energy Is Never Lost, Just Redirected’, the opening track from ‘Blood and Chemistry’, and is followed by another bafflingly energetic yet faultless performance. Those of us in the room who have waited patiently over the last year were excited to say the least by the next track, a new song entitled ‘Leaving’ that will be on their next record due out this September. Featuring typically divine riffs, and some quite ridiculously huge soaring vocals, this song goes down as well as the band could have hoped, and left us all wishing away the months between now and September.

Image courtesy of Sophia Groves @SophiaAGroves

A mesmerising delay-guitar interlude makes way for ‘Resolve’, which is then followed appreciably by ‘Left Fire’ stalwart ‘Million Dollar Question’, which is closed out with something reminiscent of a Muse post-‘Stockholm Syndrome’ riff extravaganza. A rare slower moment is brought on by the intro to ‘Hell and High Water’, which exhibits some of the skill and raw power of stand in Jack Wrench (In Dynamics), who is replacing usual drummer Daryl Atkins. Another new song ‘If Nothing Breaks Us, Nothing Moves’ – due to be released as a single in the coming weeks – arrives next. Groves humbly announces how much he’s enjoying himself – “it feels like I’m playing to family” – before unleashing this provocatively catchy tune that begs the audience to bounce along. The unmistakable drum and bass combination of ‘You Are’ tragically signals the final song of the set, with Adam Burton’s perhaps sometimes overlooked bass virtuosity taking centre stage. The haunting guitar tapping of this songs’ intro is just magical, and is one of many reasons why this song is such a fan favourite. The baying crowd bellows out the final few lines with Groves before the last big chords are played and the night is done.

The musical ability on show was just awe-inspiring. All three of these bands deserve recognition far beyond that which they are receiving currently, and I sincerely hope that more people are at some point in their lives privileged enough to be able to see any or all of them with their own eyes.

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