UNDER are well worth checking out. Read this interview to begin with. Anders Ekdahl ©2018
A band name says more than thousand words, or does it? How important is a band name to get people interested in your music?
Matt Franklin – Bass and Vocals – I think a name gains significance from the thing it refers to. When it comes to naming a band it is so difficult to find a word or phrase that sums up your sound. I hear “Pantera” and that word immediately invokes blacktooth grins and aggressive, heavy grooves – funny for a band that thought the Spanish word for Panther suited their camp glam band!
Under was a name that seemed to suit us; we sound like having the worst time on psychedelics after all.
When you finish a recording and then sit back and relax, what kind of feelings do you get? Are you glad it is finished? Does the anxiety grow, not knowing if everybody will like it?
Simon Mayo – Guitar and Vocals – As I was the producer on ‘Slick’. Under’s first album and, to be honest, my first major production as a sound engineer. I was utterly relieved and drained once it was completed. It was a huge undertaking for someone not knowing what they were doing. I couldn’t listen to it once it was finally done and only recently went back to it and had one of those “patting myself on the back” moments. At the time I didn’t give a fuck if people were going to like it, I was just relieved it was done. Fortunately, it didn’t sound half bad and helped get us on to APF records, which is more than I would have hoped for.
With ‘Stop Being Naive’ I get to just be a musician on this one and it has allowed me to fully enjoy being in the studio. I think this has translated into my playing on the album, more relaxed so more comfortable exploring my weirdness! I sincerely can’t wait for how ‘Stop Being Naive’ is going to be received. And can’t personally can’t wait to get rollin’ with the next one!
What is it like to be in a studio recording your music? What kind of feelings and thoughts race through your heads?
Andy Preece – Drums, vocals, keys – The studio is a drug. It’s always been my favourite part of being in a band. It’s the only place where creativity can truly be let off the leash, and the thrill of capturing these special, singular moments knowing they’re on record forever is like no other. We had 95% of the album written before going into the studio, but a lot of the spontaneous detail, sound textures and finishing touches that came out in the studio are what truly makes this album what it is. We’re a 3 piece which limits what we can do in practices and live gigs, but in the studio these limitations don’t exist, especially given our fantastic producer Rian Gamble who never got in the way of our frenetic, mad-scientist energy, and contributed a lot of great ideas himself. We had an amazing time recording this album. In the future we’d love to try writing an album from scratch in the studio.
Today I get a feeling that the promotion of a band lands a lot on the bands themselves so how does one promote oneself the best possible way in order to reach as many as possible?
SM – Just fucking get out there and do your shit. If you’re passionate about it, people will resonate with it. Many successful bands have their fair share of bad musicians, for some bands it’s purely marketing and their business strategies that get them success. For others it’s their evident passion and emotion that pours into their music. Music fans are usually quite empathetic and extreme music is a great gateway for escapism.
The most memorable performances I have witnessed have been quite emotionally fueled moments from bands and seeing that bounce off of the crowd is pure joy. People remember that shit and talk about it for years to come. Once you have the crowd on your side, then the publisher/label interest will rear its often-despised head. Just be sure to surround yourself with people who actually like your music and give a fuck about you and your career, like Andrew ‘Fieldy’ Field, the man responsible for publishing Under’s last album ‘Slick’ and our latest ‘Stop Being Naive’.
Today we have all these different sub-genres in metal. How important is that you can be tagged in one of these? Why isn’t metal enough as a tag?
MF – Genre tags in general are completely unimportant to us. They have practical uses for advertising but language affects the way we think… If you set out to be a certain type of band you’re not likely to take many risks outside of that template or do anything that is expressive in a truly personal way.
We don’t consider ourselves to be a metal band, although we are obviously influenced by some. If people want to call us metal that is fine. If people want to give us some convoluted, 5 word sub-genre categorisation then that is fine for them too. I lament their lack of imagination though.
What importance is there in being part of local/national/international scene? Does playing in a band make you feel like you are a part of something bigger? I know it does to me knowing that in some slight way I was a part of the Swedish death metal scene in the 90s.
AP – It’s meant a great deal to us to be part of Manchester’s thriving metal scene which, particularly in the year or so we were getting started, was riding a huge wave of popularity. We particularly owe big thanks to Eytan of NOIZ promotions, who discovered us when we were complete unknowns and gave us shitloads of great gigs and shitloads of encouragement. His gigs were always to sold out crowds and had this immense party vibe, and at the time it really felt like we were part of something vital and exciting. At this point NOIZ promotions basically WAS the Manchester metal scene and we were there at every show either playing or just getting rat-arsed. It’s an inspiring thing, feeling like your band is part of a cultural movement, however small or fleeting.
At this point though, we feel like we need to cut our own path and think bigger than our local scene, as there are some bands which never lose that provincial mentality and end up not amounting to much. Moreover our music is getting too fucking weird to fit into a musical clique so we are identifying less and less with a ‘scene’ per se these days.
Ever since I first got into metal the art work has been a main motivator in buying a record. What part does art work for album covers play in the world of the band?
MF – In this band we have always carefully considered our artwork, we want it to relate to the music. Far too many heavy bands hide behind abstraction these days, its like they’re afraid to be judged for making a statement that people will understand.
Our first EP is a POV shot of an imminent suicide but the title (“first attempt”) is a pun – gallows humour is a big part of this band.
The new album is an extension of this idea – the artwork got more light-hearted and cartoonish as the music has become more bleak and brutal. A black and white photo of a burning church would have been a little too on-the-nose for us.
How important is having a label to back you up today when you can just release your music on any sort of platform online? With the ability to upload your music as soon as you’ve written it the freedom to create has become greater but are there any negative consequences to music being too readily available to fans now that every Tom, John and Harry can upload their stuff?
MF – This all depends on your goals as a band. If you want major financial success you need that help major labels can provide to be noticed in a large pool that has only grown with the prevelance of online music platforms. However if you have no aspirations to commercial success the internet is a fantastic way to self-release and be heard by a smaller audience.
For us it certainly helps us to have a label. We’re creatives and typically not very business savvy. We have tons of respect for bands that manage to make it on their own and also a lot of appreciation for those labels out there that are still in it for music’s sake.
What is a gig with you like? What kind of shows do you prefer to play?
AP – It’s important to us that each crowd at each gig gets a unique experience. To that end, our live performances are rife with improvisation and we tinker with the way we play the songs from performance to performance. We like to leave ‘question marks’ in when we write the songs these days, so they’ll never be played live the same way twice, and we’ve learned over years of playing together to bounce off one another‘s live energy. This often results in some really cool bits of spontaneous collaboration which just sort of happen in the moment as we’re playing. We got a review of a live gig once which said ‘you never know which version of Under is going to show up to a gig’, which was satisfying to us as it’s exactly the kind of expectation (or lack thereof) which we’re trying to cultivate. It also means we can straight up fuck up a song and no-one will notice, which to be honest happens quite a bit with our improv-heavy live approach. As for what gigs we prefer to play, my main criteria is to play with interesting bands which challenge the listener, as over the years playing with carbon-copy doom, sludge and metal bands has long lost its charm.
What lies in the future?
SM – Currently more gigs, more tours, more albums because we just can’t stop writing. A split with a band we love that we are very excited about. Just more ‘Under’ in every regard possible. More horrendous vinyl colours, like sodden semen-stained sock grey, and sloppy poop brown. Because we all know people are gonna love having their translucent piss yellow “Stop Being Naïve” vinyl and mounting it proudly next to loving photos of their first born!