Interview with Carl Whitbread of Lo!

Lo! Interview

One of the more impressive and satisfying albums to see the light this year has come from Australian band Lo! Since forming in 2006 their crushing sludge/hardcore/ black sounds have found an ever increasing acclaim and audience, which the release of the album Look And Behold via Pelagic Records is sure to accelerate. With great fortune we had the opportunity to ask Guitarist Carl Whitbread all about the release, music in Australia and the band.

Hi and welcome. Many thanks for taking time out to talk to us.

Thanks for the interview!

Would you like to introduce the band?

The band consists of myself (Carl Whitbread) on guitar, Adrian Griffin on Drums, Jamie-Lee Smith on vocals and Adrian Shapiro on Bass.

Could you give some history to the band covering the early days and how you all came together to form Lo!?

So the band basically started with me writing a bunch of demos at home, over time and after having about 5 demos written and recorded, I started looking for like minded members to join the band. After a few member tweaks and changes, we finally had a solid line-up and were able to play our first show in 2010.

Your sound is deeply varied and nicely surprising what are your influences that maybe have helped shape the sound?

I guess our main influences would be bands like Breach, Old Man Gloom and Converge. We wanted the sound to be quite dark and in-your-face. Having said that though we also didn’t want to sound like we were directly ripping off those bands, we wanted to try and add our own flavour into the music. We all listen to quite a diverse range of music, so turning to those other styles for inspiration was also very important.

Do you think that it is in some ways it is important for bands to have members with distinctly different tastes and influences to bring something extra to a band’s chances of standing out amongst a wave of other artists in the same genre?

Oh definitely, I think it’s very important. Things just get so stale and boring otherwise. As I mentioned we all have diverse tastes so that definitely does help. Personally I listen to a lot of classical music, as well as indie or rock bands such as Mogwai, Queens of the Stone age, White Stripes, Deerhoof, Bjork etc. Those styles of bands really have the art of songwriting down, and are always doing something quite interesting. We like to use that as inspiration for our writing, but still obviously keeping our heavy sound. I think at the end of the day, putting more thought into the songwriting keeps the songs interesting and fresh to not only our listeners, but to ourselves as well… and if it help us stand out then that’s a bonus!

Are there a strong following and base for extreme and other darker metal flavours in Australia?

The scene over here is quite small – at least compared to Europe or America. But there are a good range of awesome bands and there’s always a lot of support from the punters. There have been a lot of venue closures though – mainly here in Sydney – which sucks, but there have been a handful of smaller DIY venues / record stores doing shows now which is very exciting. I guess the other hard part is people seem to be very lazy about going to shows. If a bigger international metal band comes out, everyone comes out of the woodwork – there’s people there you have never seen at a local show even though the local shows can be just as good.

Is it limiting though and recognition beyond the shores essential for most bands?

I guess so, but then again it depends on what your intentions are. I think most heavy bands in Australia give up on the idea of ever trying to get big, because Australia simply doesn’t have the market for it. I know for us, the priority has always been to have fun writing and playing music we love, but of course, the chance to get international exposure and interest is a massive bonus and will help us continue doing what we love.

It was your debut EP that first brought wider attention outside of Australia?

Yeah, the EP was a DIY sort of thing we had in order to send to people and sell at shows so people could hear our music. All of the tracks on the EP were remastered and made it onto the album too.

How did the link up with Pelagic Records come about?

We basically sent the EP out to a whole bunch of people / labels overseas… not really with any intention of getting signed, but more just to get the music out there. Robin got back to us straight away and said he loved it and wanted to put an album out. Obviously we were very excited!

You have just released the great debut album Look And Behold on the label, did it come out as expected or did you surprise yourselves in any way? 

I guess we surprised ourselves that it came out the way we expected… haha. We ended up doing everything ourselves, which meant we had full control over how everything sounded.
As mentioned earlier, we already had a handful of songs recorded from the EP, plus we had about 4 more which we had done but not finished, so we really had to pull everything together, make it all sounds consistent and flow as an album. It was a bit of a challenge as deadlines were tight, so there were many late nights of mixing but in the end we were super happy with the end result.

The album consists of not only ferocious and intensely striking tracks but three instrumentals that play with equal power and effect though from an atmospheric and emotively different aspect. Were these written before recording or within and did you start out with these ‘breaks’ in the powerful intensity in mind or they evolved naturally?

It was a little of both. From the start I knew I wanted us to be a band who can experiment with ambient / electronic tracks. I think it’s a great way to break up albums and takes the listener on more of a diverse journey, and as you mentioned, they can be equally as intense as the heavier stuff. ‘Doth’ had been written a long time before the album was put together so it was a matter of fitting it in seamlessly in the play order. The other 2 tracks ‘Hath’ and ‘Seraphim’ were pulled together specifically to break up the album a little more. We will definitely be experimenting more with this type of style in the future.

There is defiance and anger openly felt within the album, how personal are the songs?

For me specifically, the music didn’t really have any personal agenda behind it. I’ve always been attracted to a darker style of music, whether it be metal, ambient or classical, so I wanted it to be dark, angry and powerful. Lyric wise, our singer has based most of his lyrics on the idea of someone realising that the world (and consequently their own world) is coming to an end. I can’t really go into too much detail as I don’t know the full story but he definitely had written a lot of it based on his own experiences.

There also feels a dark humour lurking at every corner or do I just have a warped outlook? Haha.

Haha, no you’re definitely right. We’re always joking around and acting like massive idiots. We definitely wanted this to come through, and not come across so serious about everything. Things become boring very quickly otherwise.

Do you feel the band is at its height right now or there are still aspects you would like to bring out in future releases?

As it’s just our first release, I feel we’re only just getting started. We’re still a relatively new band in the grand scheme of things, so there’s still a lot of goals we want to achieve. I think the most exciting thing is the fact we haven’t lumped our music into 1 specific category so it will be interesting to see what stuff we come out with for our next release.

What is next for Lo! and what are the chances of European audiences seeing you live in the near future?

We’ve just finished up a small Australian tour for the album which was pretty successful. We’ll probably play a handful of shows and start writing some new stuff for the rest of this year. Next year we’re hoping to get over to Europe probably in May. We’re currently applying for an Arts grant so fingers crossed we can get some financial support for it!

Many thanks for talking to us, would you like to leave us with a last thought?

Thanks for the interview! We are very excited about all the exposure we’ve been getting in Europe, and hopefully we’ll see you guys next year!

 Look And Behold is available via Pelagic Records.

Review of album @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/lo-look-and-behold/

RingMaster Review 03/11/2011

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Tornado – Amsterdamn. Hellsinki

In the right hands thrash metal can be some of the most inspiring and energetic sounds around. In the dirty paws of a band like Amsterdam based Tornado it is rock ‘n’ roll at its very sleazy best and most satisfying, an essential listen for fans of all metal flavours. With their debut album Amsterdamn. Hellsinki the quintet has reignited the genre and at the same time brought back the original essences that made it irresistible in the first place.

Influences on their bio are listed as containing the likes of Slayer, Nuclear Assault, Judas Priest, Guns N Roses, Megadeth, Exodus and Motley Crue and close listens do show elements of these and many others, but the closest comparisons are early Anthrax and Suicidal Tendencies all coated in some Motley Crue brash and glam and Infectious Grooves mischief. The album is pulsating and of all the great releases that have emerged through 2011, one of the most enjoyable and invigorating.

Produced by Peter Tagtgren (Hypocrisy) who does a great job and released via Listenable Records, Amsterdamn. Hellsinki grabs hold from the thrust of the brief opener ‘A Bold Statement’, the track bringing up the senses and emotions ready for the smooth transition into the awesome ‘Hate World Wide’. This is just the start of the rampant ride the album brings, all tracks bursting with eager intentions, all consuming riffs, guitar frolics, and unapologetic straight on honest brilliant rock ‘n’ roll. The first two songs throw powerful drums from Juhana “Starvin Marvin” Karlsson at the senses as the bass of Johnny Wow throbs like a beast in heat. The riffs are incessant from guitarists Michiel “Big Maaaan”Rutten and Daddy B throughout with the songs stretched wonderfully by the intricate and creative solos and play from both within the crushing energy.  

Vocalist Superstar Joey Severance is supreme throughout the album. He comes over as an obvious showman without ever detracting from songs with a selfish delivery. His vocals have a combined Mike Muir and Joey Belladonna flavouring but brought forth in his own strong style to complement and lead the great thrash sounds erupting from each minute of sound.

       Amsterdamn. Hellsinki has to be one of the most consistent albums heard this year and beyond, that consistency being of such a high level from song to song. It is virtually impossible to pick out tracks over others but moments that especially please include the nuclear like strike of ‘Massive Extinction Impact’ its devastation impossible to escape as is its theme, the Pantera ‘Walk’ influenced riffage of ‘Eugenics’, and the challenging urgency of ‘Ignorance Is Thy Name’. Raw and aggressive the latter of the three collides with the senses in determined fashion in sound and content and as everywhere on the album gets the job done with the greatest of skill, fun, and effect.

One song at first felt slightly odd amongst the majestic trash sounds and that was the midway track of ‘Noora’. Very brief, slightly atmospheric, and female sung it is hard to know if the song was included as a respite from the energy or to show that band can touch with mellower melodic ability as well as a full on assault. First time heard as mentioned feels odd but repeat plays finds it merge nicely within the overall flow of the release.

Amsterdamn. Hellsinki ends as impressively as it started with ‘Tunisia Uprising’ and ‘Rise Disciple Rise’. Both songs as to be honest every track does, sees the band’s skills and ability to the fore. Old school and as fresh as anything else around today, the mix on the album is masterful and deeply enjoyable. The urge upon the album’s completion to dive back in again and again is impossible to refuse. Tornado has created and presented one of the finest albums of 2011, maybe of the last decade. It thrills, it spills and most of all it gives new life to thrash.

RingMaster 03/11/2011

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