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Taking The Heroic Dose: Stereoboard Chats With These Monsters

Friday, 12 July 2013 Written by Ben Bland

These Monsters finally returned in 2013 with the Stereoboard-approved ‘Heroic Dose’, and to celebrate we got hold of frontman Sam Pryor for a chat about the band’s long absence, their plans for the future and the Leeds music scene.

So, ‘Heroic Dose’ has been out a little while now. What’s been your perception of how the album has been received?

It's not really something we're aware of I suppose. In terms of reviews everything's been pretty positive but to talk about the album's reception seems a little grandiose for an underground hardcore band selling a handful of records. A small amount of critical acclaim then fading back into noble obscurity sounds about right to me.

It is, obviously, a very different record to ‘Call Me Dragon’. Do you think that’s had a positive impact on the reception of the album or do you think people have got hung up on the fact that it isn’t the same stylistically?

For These Monsters, there’s no way on earth we could release two records that sound alike. I'm not saying that's necessarily a good thing but we're just too creatively restless and find our interests and situations shifting so drastically between records that it would be impossible for us to repeat ourselves. 

We always find it odd that something so natural to us is such a common talking point when discussing the band. When you intend to spend your life making music I think it's more baffling to not change your sound every album. We just want to explore every option really and don't want to be remotely burdened by expectation or nostalgia. It may sound pompous or whatever but personally I don't care what anybody thinks about our music, I'm just doing it because I love it. 

I think the second you consider other people’s expectations or hang ups as an artist then you are creatively dead. As a fan of other bands myself I don't feel I'm owed anything by any artist I like and I think if more people were able to ignore the fan/musician/expectation model then the music industry both live and recorded would be way more vibrant and creative. 

The thing that sticks out for me about the album is how focused it is. You really hone the sound you’ve developed over the course of the record, rather than drifting in and out of different approaches as you sometimes did on ‘Call Me Dragon’. Was that always your intention for the album?

Yes, absolutely. The whole idea is that the album is one insanely focused blast ramming the same musical and lyrical themes home. One criticism we've had a few times is that the album sounds the same all the way through which is kind of missing the point. It's deliberately linear and brutish to get across this idea of a heroic dose - a stripped back, anti-bullshit, anti-orchestration, raging three-piece riffing on similar breakneck grooves and lyrical ideas for just under half an hour. 

How was the songwriting process for ‘Heroic Dose’? Was it a struggle adapting to the change in dynamic within the band?

Being a three-piece does have a lot of benefits in terms of efficiency on tour and the day to day organisation of the band. In terms of the sound of the band and the technicality of writing songs it has been a challenge becoming a trio but a satisfying one. The more members in the band (we've had six at one point) the more noise there is to hide behind, though, so as a three piece we have to make sure that every part we play is pulling its weight in the mix and have to be confident that the sound we are making is powerful enough to get our ideas across.

In terms of writing and recording ‘Heroic Dose’, musically we tried to make the new dynamic work by playing everything super loud and fast, we made sure any musical ideas disappear as quickly as they arrive in a song - nothing is given much time to develop as if to downplay the importance of the idea. Sonically everything is stripped back but at the same time amplified as if to show that something stark and simple can be just as powerful and important as something over-orchestrated and complex. 

One song that particularly caught my ear on first listen, and my eye when I saw the title, was When The Going Gets Weird. What’s the story behind that one?

When the Going Gets Weird is a tongue-in-cheek look at some of our more hilarious relationships in the music 'business' over the years. It uses a fictional character to kind of lampoon a bunch of people we've met in a fairly non-malicious manner. The title of the tune is somewhat shoehorned in purely because I was going through a serious Hunter S. Thompson binge at the time (I actually have the full quote tattooed on my chest. Forever.) and it loosely fit with the lyrical theme. We wanted it to be super fun and shouty so we have Harriet from Black Moth doing some cheerleader-esque shouts in the chorus and made a nutso video for it. 

Your album title has since been stolen by Jason Newsted. Discuss.

To be fair he seems to be the only (ex) member of Metallica with a human brain and emotions, plus the term has been used a bunch of times already by greater people than us like Terence McKenna and Bill Hicks so we'll let him off. 

Why do you think Leeds has become particularly notable for noise rock? Is it something about the city itself or the background of those involved?

I think Leeds has a pretty healthy music scene in general, although maybe there are a few more interesting, heavier bands than your average city. Leeds does have a fairly large pool of people who have all played in heavy bands together at some point and a core of bands that have been gigging together in Leeds as well as touring the UK and Europe for years. The city also has a relatively large number of small, toilet circuit style venues in close proximity to each other which kind of lends itself to punk and hardcore bands I suppose, as well as a history of goth and post-punk scenes. Who knows? It's certainly a great place to be making music in. 

These Monsters’ live shows are always experiences, especially with your penchant for looking dangerously likely to destroy your gear or yourself at any given moment. You’re one of those “what’s going to happen next?” bands. What’s the most unexpected thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows?

This question relies heavily on me being able to show off about something wacky that's happened to us or invent/embellish something for entertainment value which unfortunately I’m allergic to doing. When you throw in the fact that the story has to be edgy enough to be cool but also clean enough to not get us arrested/disappoint our parents it's an interview minefield I'm just not willing to negotiate. 

Are there any plans for new material already underway? If so, is the direction similar to ‘Heroic Dose’ or does it represent another change for the band?

Yes! I have hours of voice memos recorded of bloated jam sessions that we're going to consolidate into some nutso space punk hardcore music. It's definitely going to have elements of the previous two albums in theory but in practice will probably sound completely different again. We have two tracks ready to record for a Too Pure Singles Club release in September that we're going to record and produce ourselves and we'll hopefully plough on and use those as the foundation for the next album. 

What are the band’s plans for the rest of the year? I know you’ve all got other things going on as well but it’s been a while since the last full-on tour…

Like I said we'd like to get another album at least recorded, if not released this year as we're kind of playing catch up since it took us so long to release ‘Heroic Dose’. It would be really nice to smash in some full on touring but everyone's so busy at the moment that it's pretty difficult to sort out. We have tentative plans for an amazing Leeds bands triple header tour in Europe in the autumn which will probably destroy a large section of the Leeds heavy music scene but that's still up in the air at the moment. 


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