Washington’s Periphery create an intense brand of progressive metal that mixes the best elements of heavy sounds with lashings of electronic music, emotive song-writing and an intense dose of attitude. On their first tour of the UK, we catch-up with guitarist Alex Bois to discuss the band’s latest plans and new material…
“This tour has been a dream come true for us”
S] How are you enjoying the UK dates?
A] “It’s been incredible. We have had a lot of sold out shows and this is our very first time in the UK! We are honoured to be here and to have the venues packed is that much better.”
S] How are the crowd responding to the material – are they getting into it?
A] “Yeah, very much so. Loads of kids in every town know all of the lyrics to our songs! We’ve never been here before and I never even knew that we had an audience here. From day one, it has just been really flattering for us.”
S] Is there anything you are really excited to see while you are here?
A] “Honestly, just getting to spend time in all of the cities has been great. We even went as far up north as Glasgow. It’s just been great to check out all of the different areas. When we get to the venue and after we have loaded our stuff in, we usually have a bit of time before we need to soundcheck to check out the town and the pubs! We haven’t done too much sightseeing though. When we were in London for an XFM radio session, we got to check out Trafalgar Square and Big Ben, so that was great. We’ve been able to hang out with, and meet a lot of different people – there are a lot of very different accents here. When driving from town-to-town you get to see a lot of the English countryside too and it’s beautiful. It’s so green in comparison to the United States – that has some pretty green areas too, but in terms of the layout, it’s amazing. We’ve been loving every minute.”
S] What do you enjoy most about working in the studio in contrast to live?
A] “It’s far better playing live. In the studio, it really is a different animal. In the studio, we are focusing on writing and recording the songs properly to make everything 100 per cent perfect. We do try to perform our songs accurately every night, but we also want to have a good time and just rock out! We always want to engage with the crowd and when these kids are in the front row singing the words at me, I want to be right there screaming back at them! For us, it really is about putting on a show and being the best that we can be for the night, whereas in the studio we’re simply performing the same songs and trying to make them perfect for recording, because that is what people will be hearing for years to come.”
S] Do you feel more at home with your progressive metal sound in Europe than in the States?
A] “With our style of music we have toured the States countless times. The people who I feel really enjoy and appreciate our music are the active listeners – they are really listening to what’s going on – the lyrics, time-changes and everything, whereas the passive listeners are people that just play the music and like catchy melodies. In the States it seems that our audiences like the breakdowns and a lot more of the simple elements that they can just bob their heads too. We do have that progressive element where, like Meshuggah, we change time signatures and the songs have that polyrhythmic structure so, we do need active listeners to get into our music. We’ve found so far in England and Scotland, that most people are active listeners. Many of my favourite bands come from the UK and Europe, and so it’s no surprise to me that the crowds ‘understand’ the music a bit better. I am not sure what it it is about the culture that breeds more active listeners here. We do have really good crowds in certain areas of the United States, but on this tour, every single night we have had people singing along with us to the point where it feels like there is a really different ‘vibe’ in the UK. We are hoping that the US will latch on a bit more in the future and we are starting to get a bigger fanbase there.”
S] You have been out with notable uk acts TesseracT and Monuments – how’s that been?
A] “I’ve been a fan of both bands for a long time before this tour – I’ve loved Tesseract for at least five years, and while Monuments is a newer band, I have become good friends with them and I’ve always listened to everything they have put out. I’m good friends with members of that band too and I have been speaking to them online for years now. Now, it’s great because I get to see two of my favourite bands play every night while we are on tour. There’s also something about this line-up – we want to do this again in the States. On tours, the selection of bands isn’t always the best – one band is from one direction, and another band plays a completely different style of music. We’re usually the ‘oddball’ band because we might have singing or progressive elements – on this tour, each band works very well together and I think that’s why we have had the turnouts we have had. A lot of people don’t want to sit through a band that they have no interest in. If we are opening back home, many of our fans will leave after we have finished because they don’t care to see the other bands. Here, all three acts have these common elements. We write music that we want to hear of course, but there are a lot of elements in our music that can also be found in TesseracT and Monuments. I think it’s a great thing and a dream come true for us. I really want to take this tour to the States later on this year.”
S] Tell us about the new EP and what you wanted to achieve with that?
A] “As a band in this day and age, we have to put out material as quickly as possible. Before we got signed to a label and put out an official release, we were just constantly putting up stuff online on MySpace and Facebook so that any fan of the band could check it out – we wouldn’t make them wait two years or something like another band might. With regards to the new ‘Icarus Lives’ EP – it does have new material and remixes of the song ‘Icarus Lives’ [the first single from the band’s self-titled debut] done by us, we got a guy named Zedd who works with Skrillex [both artists are on Deadmau5’s label, Mau5trap] to do one – we are all big fans of electronic music so that was an honour. We also held a contest for anyone in the world to make an electronic remix of the song and that was won by a gentleman from the UK named Pete Graves. There are many different versions of the song on the new EP including one with new vocals on it because we had to rush the first recording. Spencer [Sotelo, vocals] went back and made it what he wanted. There’s also some b-sides as well – that’s stuff that we have released as bonus across the world.”
S] How do you feel the new material will expand thematically on the work you recorded for your debut?
A] “We compare it to any band out there. When an artist comes out with their second album and they’ve just produced a great first record, as a fan of the band you obviously want that next one to be great as well. You want it to have the things that you liked about the first, but improved a bit because of the maturity of the band. So, we are going to be setting aside quite a bit of time for this second album, because we need to make sure that it does ‘crush’ the first one, so that it becomes ten times better. The second album is going to showcase a much more ‘mature’ sound for us. Since the first record, we have been able to put aside our jobs at home and focus on the band full-time. We are now touring all over the world, and not many employers want to hire someone who is on the road all the time [laughs]. So because of all this extra time we are spending together, I think that this next record is going to be much better. This will be our first album with Spencer writing all of the vocals – he is incredible at putting vocals to music. With the first album, there was a lot of stuff written and recorded by various members of the band. I had written some of the vocal stuff along with Misha [Mansoor, guitars] and Tom [Murphy, bass] – we all contributed ideas and Spencer just had to sing in a quick time period so that we could get the record out as quickly as possible after Spencer joined the band [previous vocalist Chris Barretto left, and Spencer re-recorded the vocals]. On this one, he will be able to take his time and do what he wants. Because of the evolution of the band it will hopefully be ten times better than the first record. All of the influences will still be there and it will still sound like us – maybe there will be a little more electronic stuff because we’ve all been into that a lot recently, but it will still be riff and drum-driven.”
S] What kind of topics “drive” the band?
A] “Everyone in the band is very opinionated. Everyone has their own world views and beliefs, whether it be based on religion, or the lack thereof, so when the time comes for the lyrics to be written down, it shows the different personalities in the band. We all want to be involved and we are all very ‘hands-on’. Sometimes that is a bit of a double-edged sword – there are too many ideas and opinions! I think Spencer is going to have the ‘last word’ on what the vocals end up being about on the next record, I mean he believes in UFOs and things of that nature, but we all have a say – everyone plays a lot of video games so we can be influenced by that! It might be a concept album, but it might not be. Lyrically I think it will be a lot stronger and a lot more thought-out than our first album was.”
S] Is there a song that you are working on, or you have previously released that you feel defines the state of Periphery right now?
A] “It’s a new song that is on the EP called ‘Frack The Gods’ – it will also be on the second album that we put out. It’s a song that Misha had written in the past and then Spencer was able to put his vocals on and I think that it turned out great. We’re playing it live now. That song doesn’t necessarily represent the direction of the band but it does showcase the ‘pretty’ melodies that are mixed in with our really ‘aggressive’ sound. We’re very excited about that right now.”
S] What have been some of the biggest challenges that you have faced as a band thus far in your career and how did you overcome them?
A] “I think the best thing is that we finally have a stable line-up. Nobody’s going anywhere! That has been an issue for us in the past, we have had several singers and a couple of drummers, so now everything seems to be in place and everyone is getting along – as well as we can when we are all living together as a band. It’s hard for artists these days who aren’t getting played on the radio all the time, and making money off of that – this style of progressive metal isn’t appealing to a very broad audience and it’s more of a niche. It’s also hard with illegal downloading because it means that there just isn’t the income for our band – if everyone didn’t have girlfriends in Periphery, then we would probably be homeless! That said, things are getting a lot better and we are starting to make a lot more money selling t-shirts at shows. I think fans are starting to realise that most bands don’t make money from their music and so are starting to come out to shows more and buy merchandise. The bottom line is that the money thing has been a bit difficult for us – it’s hard for a bunch of 26-year-olds to be poor! A few of the members in this band have college and university degrees, to the point where we could go out into the world and make a decent amount of money but we have made that sacrifice because we love the band and the music. The job is ten times better than any job that we could find with our college degrees! Recently though, our guitarist Jake [Bowen] broke his finger in Manchester when we played there. Fortunately, we have a guy to replace him for the rest of the UK dates and then, we are teaching John Browne from Monuments some songs for the European tour. That was a pretty hard set-back! Last but not least, Spencer got sick on this tour and has missed one of the dates, so that is always tough – he isn’t using an instrument that’s made of wood and steel, he is using his voice so it’s hard to keep that in condition all of the time with all the different viruses and stuff. We will never cancel though, so we play instrumental sets.”
S] Random question – what film do you think would best fit the Periphery sound if you could rip away the soundtrack?
A] “I think it would be a science fiction film. Probably one that had taken place in space. Maybe with some really cool spaceships. Maybe an ‘Event Horizon‘-type movie or a ‘Starship Troopers‘ – something of that nature. There would have to be some kind of love story involved in that as well!”
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