“We just want to do what feels natural”
For many bands, playing the Download Festival is one of the standout targets on their bucket list. Some spend their formative years visiting Donington as punters, seeing their favourite bands amongst the thousands of attendees. Yet for Kadeem France (vocals) and Erik Bickerstaffe (guitar/second vocals) of Liverpudlian experimental metallers Loathe, they agreed they wouldn’t attend Download until they were on the bill.
“It’s a proud moment,” says Bickerstaffe as we spoke with the band just hours before making their Download debut. Vocalist Kedeem expands by stating “It’s been incredible so far. Me and Erik were saying earlier, we’ve watched videos when we were 16 of Download so many times. And now to actually be here, it’s kind of overwhelming.”
Loathe‘s appearance comes at the end of an impressive 12 months which began with the release of their debut album, ‘The Cold Sun’. Arriving with a wave of momentum spurred on from 2016’s ‘Prepare Consume Proceed’ EP, and as part of the relatively new SharpTone Records label, Loathe‘s growth over the past year has seen them take in shows alongside Bury Tomorrow, Blood Youth and Wage War.
While they’ve made a smattering of festival spots since forming in 2015, both Kadeem and Erik suggest they’re still finding their feet as a festival band. “At first, we were a bit iffy. We weren’t really well versed with festivals. We’re getting the hang of it,” Bickerstaffe explains with France labelling their recent Slam Dunk Festival appearance as his “favourite experience so far.”
Having gradually become well-versed with the routine of being a touring band, Loathe certainly see the positive differences playing a festival can bring. “It’s kind of like a big day out for bands, as opposed to touring, where you’re getting into the routine of getting to the venue,” France tells us. In addition, like many bands part of the UK alternative music scene, it gives Loathe the chance to catch up with pals they’ve met throughout their time touring.
“It’s just sick. I love festivals now purely on the fact that I get to see people that I don’t usually get to see and hang out with people. It’s just really good vibes all around, and then we get to play as well. That mixed together with the thing that we like doing is the cherry on top,” says Erik.
While the main selling point of Download is being the host to some of rock and metal’s biggest names, it also gives the chance for homegrown bands to step up to stages you might see them on. Having witnessed Blackpool emo rockers Boston Manor open the main stage on the Friday, there is a sense of pride and respect from Kadeem and Erik.
“They’re someone we saw, I don’t know how many years ago, playing small venues like us and now watching them doing what they’re doing, and now we’re also doing what we’re doing,” states France. “It’s cool to see where everyone is at. It shows that it is possible.”
The element of possibilities and expectations is something that is becoming firmly threaded into Loathe‘s fabric. Where ‘The Cold Sun’ thrived on intensity with Kadeem’s frenzied delivery, djent-esque moments, monstrous blasts and hints of ambience, their split EP with harmonious Welsh post-hardcore group Holding Absence saw the Liverpudlian quintet evolved their sound to bring more melody courtesy of Bickerstaffe’s clean vocals.
“We all, individually in the band, have such different tastes in music and we always incorporate that into our music,” Kadeem explains with Eric going on to say, “Having different sides to your music will relate to different sides of the audience. So having a mixture of everything we like, the different sounds etc, it’s just natural for us to do it like that anyway. It’s just what comes out. I’d like to think it gives us wider opportunities.”
Undoubtedly, is having handed the band various opportunities. While their scheduled lengthy run supporting Norma Jean and Protest The Hero has been cancelled, further festival spots and a UK tour supporting SikTh in the Autumn is sure to be beneficial for Loathe. Having played with bands from all corners of the metal world, there is a sense of fluidity to what they present and is something they want to maintain.
“We want to go even further. We want to have no pre-conceived notion of what we’re going to do,” says Bickerstaffe. “We just want to do what feels natural. If we enjoy the music and we feel there is some sort of connection, be it aesthetically or sonically, it makes sense in our eyes.”
For anyone who has witnessed Loathe in recent months, they’re more than just a band who get up on stage and play their 30 or so minutes. They look to leave an impression, especially visually. Their co-headline tour with Holding Absence earlier this year saw them use TV screens complimenting their aural offering. Both Kadeem and Erik agree that the visual side to Loathe is on par to their musical output.
“We like to think playing shows not just as ‘oh you’re going to see a show to listen to music’. You’re going to a performance,” states France. “That goes with every aspect of live music, not just what you. It’s what you see.”
Bickerstaffe goes on to say, “it’s always something that we see as a huge part of our success. It’s what we have always put our mind to and what we’re interested in. When we see visually appealing bands, we’re more attracted to get into them.”
Although they have had a productive 12 months, Kadeem and Erik believe that any new material from Loathe should remain a mystery. “I think it ruins the surprise. We like to be a bit spontaneous with our releases and what we do,” says Eric. “The mysterious image, adds to the overall feeling you get from the music and how you envision and how you relate to the band. If it all adds up then it all helps each other.”
Admirably, Loathe are becoming an increasingly intriguing band with an equally expansive sound and vision. Rather than repeat their recent achievements, they’ll retreat into their bubble, and as Kadeem suggests, “just figure out what we want to do,” ultimately keeping everyone guessing what the next chapter of Loathe will bring.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)
View more of Already Heard’s Download Festival 2018 coverage here.
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