The King is Dead! Oh wait, we’re gonna need a revolution first. Perhaps Max Raptor will whet your appetite for just that. Speaking of which (ooh, a predictable journalistic twist into the bit you wanna read!), we spoke with them a short-while back. Here is Wil Ray’s perspective on the power of music, and to a further extent, that sweet impending revolution: “Everyone’s got their own problems, but our music is about the problems that everyone has, or that the majority of people have together – because that’s when music brings people together.”
That’s truer than the barriers at the front of the gig. And when it comes to gigs, Ray has some favourites to whip out. “‘The King is Dead’, I just love that song, and the fans love it more than we do. But ‘Heavy Hearts’ is so different for us, so that’s a nice break from everything else. Anything that has energy in it, that’s what we try and write, so I guess I love all the tracks.” ‘Heavy Hearts’ was an extremely pleasant surprise for this writer, as it was for many fans, so we ask Ray about it: “We wrote that in the studio. Matt, our bass player can play quite a few instruments. He’s one of those people you hate at school. He picked up his accordion – not every punk band does that – and it sounded cool, so we jammed it out a few times while drinking a lot of lager. It sounded slightly different when we wrote it but it’s come across quite nicely. Originally it was gonna be about the London riots.” And then characters and plotlines entered in. Interesting song, and beautifully melodic. What about the faster heavier ones? “With ‘Mother’s Ruin’ we stepped up, went more mature, had more tracks. There’s more depth, I hate that light and shade phrase, but it’s definitely got its melodic moments and its heavy moments, and there’s a ballad in the middle that switches the whole thing up. Our fans have gone nuts for it.”
None of us will ever forget hearing ‘Portraits’ for the first time, that eerie feedback drizzling in and then the bass punching at your eardrums in that fantastically energetic opening track. How does Wil reflect on it? “‘Portraits’ is a bizarre calling card. We’ve been playing those songs for a year and a half, two years. It had a good run.” How do these tracks come together? “It’s always guitars first, then we’ll write maybe a verse and a chorus, then that’ll be the main idea of the song, then I’ll mix the lyrics up, write some melodies down, and then we’ll get together and play the songs together for the first time, then just bring it together in rehearsal. But even if something sounds good in recording, that doesn’t mean it’ll sound good live, and we want the tracks to come across live as well as they do on the record. People are paying to come watch live music, so we put everything into it.”
That’s what punk’s all about. At least, that’s what it means to this writer. It’s the troubled (and who isn’t?) music appreciators in one place, venting their heads and becoming a unit for a while. “Punk’s always gonna be there, because it’s the small people, and unless there’s a radical change punk’s always gonna be there. It’s almost like a historical thing where you look back at decades, at what the punk bands are saying in their music, and from that you can gage the politics of that time.”
Politics are certainly an influence, how does this feed into the songs? “The same thing happened as with ‘Portraits’. Current issues, and how we feel on a day to day basis, news and opinions, what to think, what not to think, the newspaper headlines…That constant pushing of ideas by whoever and wherever it’s coming from. It’s hard, and then people on Twitter and Facebook, are all looking to validate themselves.” The cold truth. “The album follows stuff like that, but then we’ve got songs about the press, the whole News of the World scandal, then songs about emigration:” A sensitive subject handled confidently. “‘England Breathes’ is all about how people hold old fashioned views about how sacred England should be, but the fact is, how it works is how it works the best. It’s a cosmopolitan society, that’s the way it’s going, so stop these old fashioned thoughts, because it’s not gonna help anyone out.”
So political issues are a heavy influence. How about music? “We all listen to different music, we’ve all got energy in music, but in terms of bands we try not to be influenced by anyone because then you just start becoming like that band. Rise Against are a band that we really like, but then our approach is completely British, so the main influence comes from our surroundings, and every day there are song inspirations.” In that spirit, what advice would Ray give to new bands trying to get their foot in the door? “Keep it simple. Don’t try and be like anyone else. If you like the sound of it that’s the whole reason you’re doing it. Don’t write for other people, only write for yourself. Be able to play your songs live as they are on the record. That’s not always the case but it’s definitely a big one for us.”
You’d think that this image of political frustration, and energetic live punk vibe would be a straightforward thing to encapsulate in a music video, but Raptor tackled it more interestingly, like, for instance, with a ‘Breakers’ video that almost made this writer have some kind of fit. It was flashy. “It’s a lot more fun than it looks.” Says Ray, reflecting the video making progress. “It’s constant abuse of yourself. You have to do so many days, getting different angles and stuff, and you can mime it but it looks better if you perform it. But with the characters and plotlines and the things we have going on in the background, it’s fun putting that together, getting the actors and actresses together and finding locations. It’s a fun thing to do.” Ray adds that, “It brings the song to life more. In the ‘England Breathes’ video, we did that in Redcar near Middlesborough. So you’re walking down the main high street, and there are a load of people there, and you’re going down with a camera following you – and there’s a little tiny speaker playing the music, so it looks ridiculous. You always get the odd person shouting stuff like ‘Are you on X Factor?!’”
That’s about it for this particular chat. Closing up, Wil tells us about the plans for the future: “Have a good Christmas and then continue the tour in January. Then February March time we’ll probably put another single out. Then we’ll start the festivals in April May time, and hopefully get out to Europe and then the States later in the year.” See you soon, Wil.