While the festival season is more or less in full swing, that doesn’t mean we’re moving the spotlight away from emerging talent. “Recommends” is our monthly showcase of need-to-know new bands.
This month’s edition of “Recommends” consists of hotly tipped metalcore newcomers GroundCulture, technical modern metallers Mask of Judas, 90s-esque melodic punks All Better and rising Albuquerque pop-punk upstarts, Right, On Kid!
Not many bands can say their first shows involved supporting arena rockers Thirty Seconds To Mars and hardcore heavyweights Every Time I Die, but for Newcastle newcomers GroundCulture, it’s a statement they can definitely claim. However, they’re far from being an overnight sensation. Their eponymous debut EP is the result of almost three years of fine-tuning their brand of gritty metalcore.
Now having whittled down 35 demos to six songs, GroundCulture look to deliver a message that inspires change through connecting with an already rapidly growing following. Beyond the razor-sharp riffs and angst-ridden screams of Roy Watson, is a band who use their past troubles and filter them into a positive energy.
With a stellar debut EP, support from the BBC Radio 1 Rock Show, festival appearances lined up and work on a full-length already underway, GroundCulture rightly deserve to be labelled as ‘ones to watch’. To find out more, we caught up with frontman Roy Watson.
For Fans Of: Every Time I Die, Bury Tomorrow, While She Sleeps
AH: It seems you’ve appeared out of nowhere. What’s the story on how GroundCulture came to be?
Roy: GroundCulture started off as a simple concept inside of mine and Mattie’s heads around about five years ago, whilst we’re both touring the UK in separate projects. We always had an insane chemistry musically and knew it could potentially be fruitful down the line when we had both absorbed a bit more experience from the road and the challenges that come with touring. It’s a long story as it was a massive process of progression, but I’m sure we will be able to kick back and go into at some stage. Let’s just say that a simple concept transformed into a vision that has never stopped expanding.
AH: ‘Confessions’ made a quick impact, especially with it being premiered on the BBC Radio 1 Rock Show. How has the overall feedback been to the track?
Roy: Massively, Yeah! People seemed to really get behind ‘Confessions’ from the get-go and genuinely look as though they’ve found it to be a refreshing release that’s caught them by surprise, which is exciting to watch weave outward into other areas of the world so soon. Having that initial push and support from Dan over at Radio 1 was a great experience for our first ever release as well.
AH: As a new band, how effective is having a song debuted on Radio 1?
Roy: Radio 1 is such an effective platform even for bands who are at the height of their careers, so it’s kinda ten-fold for a band who are literally just going live with their vision. It also allowed us to reach ears that we would have likely slipped by so that’s amazing in itself.
AH: It’s also the first single from your self-titled EP. Stylistically, does ‘Confessions’ capture what the EP sounds like?
Roy: I personally wouldn’t say so in a sense of recurring style, buy maybes as far as the energy we wanted to portray, definitely. We selected our six favourite tracks from a pool of 35 possible options, so the vibe of each track has its own character. You’re going to have to check it out and let me know whether you feel the same way!
AH: Lyrically, ‘Confessions’ has a defiant tone of “You’ve gotta get up, get up and get out of this past tense collective”. Is that a common theme on the EP?
Roy: Think of the lyrical content of this EP as having a bit of dualism about it. On one hand, I’m sinking inward and fusing with my own negative experiences and perception in order to spark growth and positive change on the surface of my own life, as though it was some kind of therapy. While in another sense I’m projecting outward, trying to utilise my own vulnerability to speak to people of the world who have lived through the same internal battles, which is pretty much all of us. So, defiant as in, ‘I am more valuable and powerful than I think I am’, then hell yes!”
AH: From reading your previous comment of “we are the backs against the wall, determined to inspire change through connection,” it seems you have a longterm goal that is more than just releasing an EP and touring?
Roy: GroundCulture definitely isn’t going to stop at one EP and a bit of touring, I can tell you that much. Right now though we’re lost in the process and will let it all unfold naturally as its meant to. We will always be more stoked to inspire a person in their journey than we will be through receiving gratification or anything like that. I’m intrigued to see what we can accomplish with this.
‘GroundCulture’ EP by GroundCulture is released on 1st June.
Mask of Judas
On their debut album, ‘The Mesmerist’, Mask of Judas provide a twisting, tightly executed display of technical prog metal. Add the versatile vocal talents of Jo Challen and you’re left with a very impressive modern metal band. You just have to listen to album highlights ‘Gravity’ and ‘The Conspirator’ as evidence. Throughout Challen’s vocals from go from one extreme to other; one moment she’s growling with intensity, the next smoothly delivering soaring melodies. While Sam Bell and Reece Fullwood supply a flurry of frantic riffs, with the rhythm combo drummer Jof Walsh and bassist George Bell controlling the sudden twists and turns that pop up throughout ‘The Mesmerist’.
However, getting to the point of releasing their debut album has been a long time coming for Mask of Judas. Having gone through various line-up changes, released several EP’s, and played festivals such as Bloodstock and UK Tech-Metal Fest, the quintet are now settled and have delivered a thought-provoking album. The lyrical catalyst for ‘The Mesmerist’ is based on the idea that modern society is controlled by illusive influencers; politically, socially, religiously, and artistically.
To delve into deeper into ‘The Mesmerist’, we spoke to guitarist Sam Bell and vocalist Jo Challen;
For Fans Of: Gojira, Animals as Leaders, Arch Enemy
AH: Although this is your debut album, we hear the band has been through various lineup changes. How did the current incarnation of Mask of Judas come to be?
Sam: I joined the band a while back when my flatmate who was already playing in MoJ (Walsh) asked me to come in. We would write a lot of material together however he eventually left the band to peruse his solo project. Jo and Jof (vocal and drums) have always been in the band before I joined. We needed a new bass player and George (Bell) auditioned having already been into the first EP’s that we had released prior to 2010. In terms of second guitarist, I had been friends with Reece (Fullwood) on Myspace for many years, we have some similar tastes in music and have a similar voice guitar-playing wise. He lives far up the country but he was happy to join in and provided two songs on the album.
AH: With this being your debut album, some people will be hearing MoJ for the first time. From hearing ‘The Mesmerist’, your sound is a melting pot of different styles and influences. How would you define the bands sound?
Sam: I have always had a classic rock/funk/soul/pop background in my playing before joining Mask of Judas. Apart from enjoying bands like KillSwitch Engage and Sikth, my metal influences weren’t that strong. The rest of the band, however, has a lot more influence in terms of modern metal and alternative rock.
When writing the instrumental material for the band, I wanted to bring in the technical element and heavy elements of modern metal, however, I wanted strong emphasis on thematic development, pop structure and storyline in terms of how the songs develop. I just wanted to create my own idea of what I would like to hear from a metal band. I wanted to focus on good songwriting rather than just writing technical and heavy things for the sake of it and pasting them all together. I also wanted to make sure it was as epic as possible, almost eccentric sounding in some places to really get across my message through the music. Jo came in and created the vocal parts and melodies after I had demoed the original ideas and taken them to the band to put their own instrumental parts and voice into the songs.
AH: Are there any standout songs on ‘The Mesmerist’ that sum up what Mask of Judas are all about?
Sam: Instrumentally I feel that ‘Brand New Conquest’, ‘Siren’, ‘The Conspirator’ are particularly stand out. They feature a broad mix of what makes our sound. They feature all the dynamic ups and downs, harmony, technical parts and melody that I feel are signature to my writing style and the bands overall style.
AH: We’ve been told the album is lyrically connected by a theme about modern day society and how our lives are largely controlled by illusive influencers. Care to tell us more?
Jo: Yep. We live in a materialistic society where success is deemed as an acquisition of goods and receipt of approval. I don’t think we realise at all how much we are subject to and have evolved to be subject to herd mentality. I don’t mean that everybody shares the same opinion, I mean that our choices are heavily influenced and manipulated by others.
We follow political and religious agendas and without scrutinizing the ethical ambiguities of polar devotion, we look to social media for popular opinion when deciding what to buy, what to aim for, even which music we like or dislike. We work to acquire unnecessary accessories without questioning to what extent we simply want to feel approved by others. We look down on figures depending on mass consensus, and we often look up to people who have more rather than those who think or do more. Every choice we make, that could give somebody money or power, is a target for hijacking via social manipulation. As a result, there are whole networks of industries and organisations that feed on and manipulate our desires because they know how malleable our perception is. A lot of these influencers aren’t even elusive, they’re out in the open and widely accepted, yet some of us rarely question our desires or how they affect the rest of the world because we’re sitting ducks in a trance.
AH: Is there a certain message you want listeners to take away from hearing the album?
Jo: I suppose to remind people to make up their own minds, and feel confident in doing so.
AH: Looking past the release of ‘The Mesmerist’, what else can we expect from Mask of Judas in the coming months?
Sam: I hope that we can land some festival gigs and support some of our favourite bands. I really hope this album gets out to people and they enjoy it. If more interest can be generated in the band from this release then that would be wonderful. I hope it inspires non-musicians and musicians alike. Metalheads and non-metal heads. I hope it opens a door for people who maybe aren’t into the tech metal thing and communicates a message in the way only music can.
‘The Mesmerist’ by Mask of Judas is out now.
Right On, Kid
The formation of Right On, Kid is a familiar one. What began as an acoustic project between Zach Rose and Nick Encinia, has now transformed a burgeoning pop-punk quintet. Joined by lead guitarist RJ Butler, bassist Tieler Cooper and drummer Elijah Pomerleau, the Albuquerque group have just released their second EP in the form ‘Forever Missing Out’.
Combining a relevant pop-punk shine with a raw skate-punk undertone, songs such as ‘Clarity’ and ‘Loci’ prove to thoroughly energetic and catchy as hell. With stylistic nods to classic and modern pop-punk bands throughout, Right On, Kid are on the right path to step out from the ocean-size pool of emerging bands.
We spoke to vocalist Zach Rose to discuss ‘Forever Missing Out’, standing out from the crowd and the Albuquerque music scene.
For Fans Of: New Found Glory, Knuckle Puck and Forever Came Calling
AH: We hear the band originally started as an acoustic duo. Can you tell us how you became the Right, On Kid! you are today?
Zach: Since the start, we wanted to make music as a full-fledged band. We had some songs written acoustically that we wanted to transform. It all came together once RJ, Tieler, and eventually, Elijah joined.
AH: You recently released an EP called ‘Forever Missing Out’. For those who have yet to hear it, what can they expect from its five songs?
Zach: You can expect catchy hooks, relatable lyrics, and hard-hitting instrumentation. We worked very hard on these five songs, and are so proud to have this EP as a representation of our band going forward.
AH: What do you consider the standout song from the EP and why?
Zach: Definitely ‘Clarity’. It was the first song we wrote for the EP. We feel that it encompasses the overall feeling we want to portray throughout the entirety of ‘Forever Missing Out’.
AH: With the pop-punk scene being so big, how do Right, On Kid! stand out from the crowd?
Zach: All of us bring a unique approach to songwriting based on our influences. We write songs collectively and make sure that everyone is happy with the song and idea before we move forward. We want to be relatable while still writing music that pushes the boundaries of the genre.
AH: Finally, what should we know about the Albuquerque music scene?
Zach: The Albuquerque music scene is a family. We may not have many all-ages venues anymore, but the ones that we do have like Moonlight Lounge and The Launchpad are always extremely welcoming to touring and local bands. We are grateful for the support that we get during hometown shows and can’t wait to see what the future holds for our scene.
‘Forever Missing Out’ EP by Right On, Kid is out now on Manic Kat Records.
Meet All Better. If you’re a key observer of Brighton’s ever-thriving underground music scene, then you’ll recognise some familiar faces. The trio of bass player and vocalist Nick Burdett, guitarist and vocalist Chris Childs, and stick-man Sam Perkins have been involved in numerous B-town bands; Eager Teeth, This City, and H_ngm_n.
As part of a close-knit music community, it’s no surprise All Better is the result of the trio playing shows and working together. Stylistically, they take their cues from turn-of-the-millennium Green Day with a hint of 2000s emo/pop-punk and a definite British tongue. Their debut EP, ‘A Turn at Being Cool’, is six songs of upbeat, summery melodic punk with a blend of sincere and mischievous lyrics.
For a first outing, All Better use their collective experiences to good use as ‘A Turn at Being Cool’ proves to be a fun debut that grows track-by-track. Even though they’re considered regulars in Brighton’s music scene, All Better is a new project for the trio, so we decided to find out more.
For Fans Of: Green Day, Saves The Day, Jimmy Eat World
AH: Although All Better is a new band, we get the feeling the Brighton music scene has played a part in you three coming together?
All Better: We’re the Brighton music scene’s little naughty love child. We all met about five years ago through being in other bands and playing shows together. Chris and Nick ended up living together for a while and had a short career in the hip-hop game and Sam and Chris both work together at Sticky Mike’s. Nick had been sitting on some demo’s for a while and asked if we fancied a jam and voila here we are.
AH: You recently released ‘Like TV’. For those who have yet to hear it, how would you describe it?
All Better: It’s a big tasty sandwich. In the middle is a big veggie patty of tasty early 2000’s pop-punk, on top of that that we’ve layered on a thickly distorted riff as the salad, the drums are the bread and I guess the vocals are the sauce leaving you with some great musical flavours. I just had a subway.
AH: Does ‘Like TV’ give us a good idea of what to expect from the rest of the EP?
All Better: In the same way that ‘Like TV’ is kind of a throwback to early 2000’s then for sure. I think our original attraction to that genre is that those records had the potential to cover a range of musical styles and emotions, and not sound like you were shuffling your iPod. That’s what we’ve gone for with ‘A Turn at Being Cool’.
AH: We’ve heard you’ve been compared to Saves the Day, NFG, and Say Anything. Do you think that sums up your style albeit more British?
All Better: There’s a lot more to it than those three bands for sure but they’re also huge compliments. Some of the EP tracks are a lot more on the punk spectrum and others lean towards the more emo/rock side of our styles. I think it’s a great place to start but we’ve got a lot more dimensions up our musical sleeves.
AH: With just a couple of shows under your belt, how have All Better’s live experiences been so far?
All Better: Before we debuted as All Better, we played a few warm-up shows under the moniker Rough Sex to get a feel for what people were into. Turned out the main thing they weren’t into was the name. Other than that we’ve had some great shows so far. Brighton has a wealth of venue’s and great bands to play with.
AH: Looking further ahead, what else can we expect to see from All Better in the coming months?
All Better: We’ve got six tracks on the EP and are hoping to film videos for most, if not, all of them. We’re planning another tour in the summer around the rest of the UK and then hopefully back into the studio by the end of the year.
‘A Turn At Being Cool’ EP by All Better is released on 15th June on Speaking Tongues.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)
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