Download Festival Interview: Northlane

Northlane have had a turbulent year, but with new vocalist Marcus Bridge at the helm, they’ve successfully turned their fate around. Sydney’s metalcore giants take to the Download Festival stage on the crest of a wave that’s about to shake the genre at its foundations.

Ahead of their Maverick stage show, Already Heard chatted to guitarist Josh Smith and bassist Alex Milovic about their new vocalist, July’s anticipated album ‘Node’ and the future of rock and metal.

AH: Hey guys, how’re you doing? Not drowned yet, have you seen it out there?
Josh Smith: We’re pretty good swimmers, we’re from Australia, so we can deal with it.

AH: How’s it feel being at the home of European rock and metal for the first time?
Josh: Unbelievable. Download is the biggest one. We’ve been watching videos of all our favourite bands playing here since before it was called Download and it’s just incredible that we’ve actually made it here.

AH: Do you hear about Download a lot in Australia?
Josh: Oh yeah, we hear about a lot of festivals over here through the internet, so you come over here and you’re like, “oh my god, we’re actually at Download!”

Alex Milovic: The internet’s a very good thing!

Josh: We’re from Australia, it’s so hard to do okay back home. We don’t really have anything to make something of ourselves.

AH: You guys have been around a bit now, does it feel like a long time?
Alex: It’s been a while!

Josh: Every day is fun, every day is fresh.

Alex: The weird thing is you kind of sit back and go, “oh, cool”.

Josh: A few years have passed since we’ve done this or that, it’s a long time but because you’re so busy and so active doing shows and travelling, it just flies right by.

AH: So tell us a bit about ‘Node’ then, what can we expect from it?
Josh: ‘Node’ is the most varied album we’ve ever done. There’s the most depth in songs, the most differences between songs that we’ve ever had, I dare say heavier and softer than we’ve ever done in the same package. It’s more progressive, it’s definitely more mature, we’ve all grown up a bit. Obviously with a fresh palette with our new singer, it’s really refreshing for us.

AH: ‘Obelisk’ was one hell of a teaser!
Josh: And it doesn’t represent the album too. We could’ve picked any song and it would’ve been a divisive song, it would’ve been an unexpected song. The whole record makes sense when you listen to it, but you can’t sum it up with one track.

AH: That’s good to hear because you’re not fans of following trends, are you?
Josh: There’s no point trying to keep up, because if you try, you’re always behind, you’re better off just doing your own thing, doing what you think is right, because that’s fresh. We’ve done a few listening sessions for the record with 50 fans in each one and one of the overwhelming things that keeps coming up is “how did you do this? It’s so fresh”, because we went back and thought about what had an impact on us growing up as kids and as musicians, and how we could recreate that in the context of our band rather than looking at what all our peers are doing.

AH: We can’t forget your new vocalist Marcus Bridge, how’s it all going so far?
Alex: It’s a walk in the park!

Josh: It’s great, he does a lot of studio stuff at home for fun, he writes and records his own songs and does it on the road too, he’s just so experienced and such a pro that it’s just easy. It’s still a huge challenge of course but when it came to him tracking, he just nailed everything.

AH: How’s he getting on with the old material too?
Alex: He made it his own, which is exactly what we wanted.

AH: What’ve you got in store for the Maverick stage later then?
Josh: Come and have a look! I don’t wanna give it away, we’ll pull out a few new songs.

AH: So what’s your favourite thing about festival shows?
Josh: There’s not a lot of festivals back at home, I think there’s about 4 or 5 we can do. There’s so many bands we wanna see and people we get to meet at these things so it’s a great time to hang out with new friends and old friends. Just play a sick show and have a great day!

Alex: The variety too is cool because when we’re touring, we’re quite stuck with listening to the same bands for a month within our realm of music. We never get to experience much other live music because we’re always on tour, and that’s often the stuff that’s more inspiring because it’s something you’re not used to. So we love doing more varied festivals because we’re exposed to that.

AH: What was the first album you ever bought?
Alex: I’ve forgotten the name of the album now… Underoath.

Josh: Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ ‘Californication’… no, actually it might have been ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, one of the two. I got into buying CDs a lot younger. I used to hang out with my uncle a fair bit who played in bands and stuff, and he showed me the Red Hot Chillis when I was about 10 and it was the first band I really got into besides The Wiggles, of course. I hear they have franchises across the world, I haven’t kept up to date with children’s entertainment.

AH: If you could bring one band supporting you on tour, who would it be?
Josh: That’s really hard because we’ve already done it! I wouldn’t want to insult the bands I want to tour with by saying I want them to support us, but I always want to tour with Karnivool again. We toured with them once and they changed everything about how we play music and then another one is Deftones. We did a festival tour with them in Australia, it was sick and I’d love to do that again, but I’d never as them to support us! You can hear a lot of that in our new record too, it definitely takes that vibe. Music’s so overproduced at the moment that it’s due for a shake-up, it’s due for bands to go “this has gone too far, we need to step back and remember why we’re here.” That’s what the record’s all about, changing things as we see fit.

Alex: I can’t add anything more to that, I would’ve said Karnivool straight up.

AH: What’s your view on Gene Simmons’ comments that rock is dead?
Josh: Didn’t Spotify decide that metal is the most streamed thing on there in Australia? So that in itself from an Australian is enough to say he’s definitely wrong. I highly respect Gene Simmons because what KISS did was monumental, they created characters that were bigger than the band and nobody wrote them off when they were coming up. They really worked their way to the top with their live shows, which is what rock and roll is all about, but that being said, I disagree with him because look at today. 80,000 people have come here to share rock and metal together. Download is the biggest festival in Australia, there’s festivals all across Europe where there’s rock and metal bands killing it. Slipknot are selling out arenas every night, Parkway Drive is selling out rooms every night, how is rock and metal dead? It’s not! Foo Fighters, do I need to say more?

Alex: I think he’s a little old and out of touch.

Josh: I think music comes in and out of fashion, I watched the grunge era go in and out as I was growing up, into nu-metal and everything that followed it, there was that late ‘90s trance thing that took over everything and how EDM was supremely popular. I think there’s something intrinsically raw about rock and metal that resonates with people in a way that no other genre really does, so there’s always going to be a place for it.

‘Node’ by Northlane is released on 24th July on UNFD.

Northlane will be returning to the UK in October for a headline tour. Support comesfrom Volumes, The Acacia Strain and Hellions.

4th Fleece, Bristol
5th Asylum, Birmingham
6th Classic Grand, Glasgow
7th Club Academy, Manchester
8th O2 Islington, London
9th Talking Heads, Southampton

Northlane links: Facebook|Twitter

Words by Ali Cooper (@AliZombie_)


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