As Spring fast approaches, our monthly roundup of essential emerging bands is here. Once again “Recommends” serves a handful of promising bands we think shouldn’t be ignored.
March’s edition consists of five up-and-coming acts led by the five-star rated metallers Greyhaven. Joining them are Bournemouth-based emo/pop-punk upstarts Wolf Culture, Scottish electro-rockers Neshiima, instrumental specialists A Sudden Burst of Colour and Maryland pop-punks At Face Value.
Do you like the unhinged yells of Every Time I Die? The dynamic chaos of Norma Jean? The destructive blasts of The Dillinger Escape Plan? If you tick all three boxes then you’re going to love Greyhaven. A lot.
Returning with ‘Empty Black’, their second album, the Kentucky quartet deliver a tour de force of progressive metalcore with an abundance of bourbon-soaked riffs and southern metal grooves. While in Brent Mills, they have a vocalist with an impressive range. Just take early album highlights ‘Echo and Dust pt. I’ and ‘Blemish’ for example. Steamrolling in with a fistful of aggression before providing an earworm of a chorus. While on ‘White Lighters’, Mills and company rein things in, allowing his voice to soar above the drifting instrumentals. With hints of experimentation throughout, ‘Empty Black’ will have you hooked and helplessly headbanging.
‘Empty Black’ is the result of a transitional period. Following the release of 2014’s ‘Cult America’, they went through a lineup shift with Mills and bassist Johnny Muench being joined by guitarist Nick Spencer and drummer Ethan Spray. Now in 2018, Greyhaven are soldiering on with one of the year’s compelling metal releases so far.
Currently on tour in the US with Norma Jean, we spoke to Brent Mills to find out more about ‘Empty Black’.
For Fans Of: Every Time I Die, Norma Jean and The Dillinger Escape Plan
AH: We’re a week away from the release of your second album, ‘Empty Black’. Although this is a different lineup to one that made ‘Cult America’. For those hearing the band for the first time, can you bring us up to speed on the history of the band?
Brent: Greyhaven started out as four dudes from a prior band just wanting to do something a bit different. We wrote ‘Cult…’ rather quickly and toured briefly off of that, before member changes took effect.
After that, Johnny and I spent about a year and a half trying to the find the right guys and we ran into Nick and Ethan at the right time. We’d known them for a while because of different bands they’d been but the timing was right for them to play with us and after the first practice it just felt right. The next right under two years or so would be us writing and touring as much as we possibly could until we reached this point having a label take a chance on us.
AH: As it’s been four years since the last album and with new members, how has the band’s sound developed on ‘Empty Black’?
Brent: I think we set ourselves up with the first record to sort of go wherever we wanted to, whether that be us never really knowing what we were doing in the first place or just us enjoying all kinds of influences and that showing through. It’s probably a combination of both. But Nick and Ethan knew our sound before and wanted to retain the essence, but naturally, with new people involved, there are new perspectives and ideas introduced. Also, we just spent a lot of time on these songs, we wrote and refined things so much. I think us just growing as a group over the last two or three years, plays the biggest hand in it. We just wanted to push the limits of the foundation we laid out already. Heavier. Softer. More weird. Just increasing the threshold of whatever area we wanted to explore.
You have described ‘Empty Black’ as “make the accident look like it was on purpose”. Could you expand on this?
Brent: So I guess all that really means is we never really act like we know what it is we’re trying to do. We’re just making music the only way we know how, and sometimes, that’s born out of us just fucking around as much as it is us labouring over a part. A few times we’d come up with something, play it wrong and something interesting happened there that we ended up enjoying and coming back to. I guess all that’s saying is we’re not afraid to experiment with things that shouldn’t work, but we thought it sounded cool so we moved forward.
AH: For new listeners, what songs on ‘Empty Black’ do you think define what Greyhaven are all about and why?
Brent: That’s such a hard question to answer because we do so much on each song. Even the few singles that are out I don’t think set anyone up for the whole record. I guess my own personal answer would be the first track, ‘Sweet Machine’, because we kind of do everything in one movement with that one. And lyrically it sets someone up to sort of “get it” in a way. I comment on how I feel about the world and how we view each other as people, as other human beings, and I do that in a few different ways on the record but this one kinda sums up the concrete, the sarcastic, and the abstract feelings I have all in one.
AH: You’ve just started a lengthy tour with Norma Jean. How has the response been to the new material so far?
Brent: This tour has been great so far. We’re getting introduced to so many people that have never heard our name before, as well as a few stragglers that have kept up with us. Hearing both groups of people coming up to us at the merch table are excited to hear the rest [of the record] is the greatest feeling. It’s only been positive so far as far as people we’re playing in front of. We still have a few weeks left of this after the record drops in a week, so I’m excited to hear more from people once they can really hear the songs.
‘Empty Black’ by Greyhaven is out now on Equal Vision Records/Graphic Nature.
Hailing from the seaside town of Bournemouth, meet Wolf Culture. They are the latest emo/pop-punk band aiming to stand out from the pool of groups filling that scene. Nevertheless, as heard on recent single, ‘Wreck’, the quartet show a flair for writing addictive, heartfelt hooks.
Since starting out as a trio in 2015, they’ve shared stages with names such as Like Pacific, Trophy Eyes, and WSTR, putting in the groundwork any young band should do. While it was their cover of As It Is’ ‘Dial Tones’ that served as the catalyst for Wolf Culture as it gained over 20,000 YouTube views within weeks of its release. Fast forward to the present day and the now four-piece of vocalist/guitarist Max Dervan, drummer Jake Daniels, guitarist Jay Dervan and bassist Josh Halbert, have inked a deal with up-and-coming LA-based label, Common Ground Records.
Undoubtedly, Wolf Culture are to be labelled as “ones to watch” with more music on the way. In the meantime, we spoke to Max Dervan (vocals and guitar) and Jay Dervan (guitar) about their origins, ‘Wreck’, how has their live experiences influenced them and more.
For Fans Of: As It Is, Milestones and State Champs
AH: We hear the band formed three years ago as a trio then Josh Halbert joined the following year. Can you fill us in on the history of Wolf Culture so far?
Jay: You’ve heard correct. Basically, back in early 2015, we released a cover as a trio just to test the waters. People seemed to like it, so we started writing our own stuff and recording demos in our parents’ living room. When we started playing those songs live we were hooked, but we needed a bass player to complete the lineup. That’s when Josh came.
AH: For many, ‘Wreck’ will be their first exposure to what Wolf Culture are all about. What can you tell us about the track?
Max: I wanted to write a song that was extremely bittersweet. That’s why the lyrics contrast the upbeat nature of what the instruments are playing. To me, the lyrics describe how a relationship can fluctuate yet still hold together in the long run, which I think most people can probably relate to.
AH: The release of ‘Wreck’ coincided with the news that you’ve joined Common Ground Records. Can you tell us how a band from Bournemouth teams up with an independent label in Los Angeles?
Jay: The cover we posted in 2015 caught the eye of Common Ground and we got into talking. What they must have thought of our early demos, I don’t know, but after sending the first mix of ‘Wreck’ they were keen to have us on their roster.
It’s easy to work with people who have a similar mindset to you and we’ve got to give a lot of credit to the internet video chats ’cause we’re not exactly local.
AH: In the past, you’ve played shows with names such as Like Pacific, Trophy Eyes, WSTR, Hawthorne Heights, Milestones and more. Has those experienced shaped Wolf Culture’s sound and live show in any way?
Max: Yeah, definitely. We wouldn’t be where we are without taking something from every show we’ve played as a band. You learn as you go whether it’s touring, writing, recording or meeting loads of new people. We’ve had to step up our game to play the bigger shows but we still have a soft spot for playing with the local bands too.
AH: Following on from ‘Wreck’, what else can we expect from Wolf Culture in the coming months?
Jay: Well, if you liked ‘Wreck’, then you’ll like the coming months.
For some bands it can take a few years to find your sound. That is certainly the case for Glasgow four-piece Neshiima. Formed in 2013, the band’s debut EP, ‘Distance’ lived in the sphere of snappy tech-metal. Nevertheless, they’re now embarking on a new, bold chapter.
Their new EP, ‘Purple’, sees the quartet expand their sound to incorporate electronic and hip-hop elements. On top of that, it is the first in a trilogy of EPs that vocalist/producer Liam Hesslewood described as “a progression of emotion”. For Hesslewood, the lyrical nature of ‘Purple’ is filled with passion and anger. Disillusioned being part of the Jehovah’s Witness community, he eventually was disowned by the religion and, more importantly, his own family.
The hip-hop loaded ‘Who I Am’, synth-infused metalcore blast that is ‘Believe’ and leadoff single, ‘Here Forever’, allows Hesslewood to explore and express his issues vividly. Beyond its nu-metal exterior, ‘Purple’ is a multi-layered EP, both lyrically and musically, and is carried with plenty of intrigue.
Ahead of its imminent release, we spoke to Liam Hesslewood to discuss the band’s history, their evolution in sound, and the trilogy of EP’s.
For Fans Of: Linkin Park, Asking Alexandria, Enter Shikari
AH: The band has been together for five years. For those discovering Neshiima for the first time. Can you give us a quick round-up on your story so far?
Liam: Prior to our forming, I used to produce music of various styles. Four of us got together in 2013 and started to play around with some riffs and melodies. After a year, we released the ‘Distance’ EP. In the two or so years since we really pushed hard to break into playing more gigs and had our first festival appearance at UK Tech-Fest.
After 3 years, our main guitarist (Calum) left the band and Ross (Cloughley) joined. The change of dynamic was poignant to the shift in our motivation and general attitude to the music we have been making. It did take us the majority of those four years to really find our sound, but last year – to break the silence of a full year writing – we released a single (‘Livid’) which was really a precursor to our new material.
AH: You’re sound seems to have evolved over the years from tech-metal to a hybrid of rock, hip-hop and electronics. How would describe the band’s sound?
Liam: We are definitely heavily influenced by the music we all love. For me, I used to listen to a lot of Nu-Metal when I was growing up. Latterly though, as a band, we all seem to feel an affiliation with bands such as Issues and Architects as well as appreciating the development of UK hip-hop. All of this is part of our melting pot. I love arranging trance synth too, so more often than not, if a chorus calls for it – that will get thrown in too.
If you enjoy bands such as Enter Shikari and Linkin Park, you may appreciate Neshiima.
AH: You’re set to release a new EP titled ‘Purple’ this month. It’s the first in a trilogy of EP’s. What can you tell us about the trilogy and what ties them all together?
Liam: I guess the main thing that ties them all together is a progression of emotion, which is visually displayed by the artwork for each release. The first in the trilogy (‘Purple’) depicts physical and psychological bruising. The lyrical content is pretty personal to me – following personal losses and the experiences gained.
This EP features a guest vocal from our friend Renny Carroll (Forever Never, John Browne’s Flux Conduct) on the track ‘Here Forever’, which carries the main thread of the release. Other tracks such as ‘Believe’ and ‘Who I Am’ provide some real peaks and troughs of variation in our style too.
The next two EPs in the trilogy will share commonalities, but they will have a different approach. Production on the second EP is well underway.
AH: In regards to ‘Purple’, not only does it take on a message revolving around mental health but it also sees you facing up to his religious past. Can you tell us more about this?
Liam: I grew up in a religious family, which in turn was part of a Jehovah’s Witness community. As I grew older I found that my path wasn’t fully aligned with what religion held in store. I felt that where religion can be exclusive and dismissive, faith (whether it is in a deity, humanity or even in oneself) is an important thing that can really bring people of all kinds together. Due to some lifestyle choices that I made, I was disfellowshipped from the religion.
Being excluded from your immediate family, due to a religious stance, certainly does hurt but that’s their choice and I have to respect that. But as time has gone by, I’ve grown stronger as a person for not being bitter.
AH: With the EP lyrically being so personal and direct, what message do you hope listeners take away from hearing ‘Purple’?
Liam: The message is really a reminder that the world is a very small place, in which we all need to live. We all must support one another if we are to thrive as a race. Kindness goes a long way.
AH: Besides the two other EPs in the trilogy, what else can we expect to see from Neshiima in the coming months?
Liam: You’ll have to wait and see. We’re continually surprising ourselves with our plans in moving forward. 2018 should be very interesting.
The party really kicks off on March 30th at the ‘Purple’ release show in Glasgow, followed by a few subsequent dates. We hope to tour the UK later this year. In the meantime, there will a series of singles and videos from the releases.
‘Purple’ EP by Neshiima is released on 23rd March.
A Sudden Burst of Colour
Combining elements of rock, ambience, electronica and dance, A Sudden Burst of Colour are the latest in a growing line of Scottish instrumentalists. As heard on their latest single, ‘I Am The Storm’, the Motherwell quartet create stunning, cinematic-esque soundscapes that are energetic as they are enthralling.
Formed just over five years ago, ASBoC’s discography has evolved, becoming more layered and textured, adding to their post-rock foundations. The aforementioned ‘I Am The Storm’ sees the four-piece branching out with the use of drum machines and synthesizers.
From our conversation with bassist/sampler Calum Farquharson, it seems ‘I Am The Storm’ marks the bridge between ASBoC’s past and future. One with a wider scope, both musically and visually.
For Fans Of: Mogwai, Maybeshewill and VASA
AH: A quick glance at your Facebook suggests you celebrated your fifth anniversary as a band last November. For those hearing A Sudden Burst of Colour for the first time, can you give them a quick overhaul of the history of the band?
Calum: We started writing late 2012 but didn’t really get going until late 2013. The four of us were already friends and had previously played in bands together and our venture into the rehearsal room in 2012 was nothing more than something to fill the time on that specific day.
Our guitarist, Callum [Brand], had invested in a few mental reverb and delay pedals and upon learning what type of tones and textures we could create from these, things started to get exciting. We quickly binned the covers we had planned to play and started writing our own stuff. 4/5 months later, we had written our debut EP, ‘Reborn’ and our focus on the band became a lot more serious from that point onwards. Since then, we’ve continued writing, upped our performance schedule and started moving towards making ASBoC a visual project, as well as a musical one.
AH: In terms of the bands sound, how would you define it for new listeners, especially with the mix of electronic, ambient, dance and rock?
Calum: I’m not entirely sure. I think bands usually struggle with labelling their own music, maybe through fear of pigeon-holing their sound or being bias to their own tastes. However, I think it’s fair to say at the time of writing, we weren’t going for a deliberate sound. It’s a cliché, but we just started writing, playing, producing, and then we worked with whatever sounds came to the forefront. I think having too much foresight in the early stages can almost be a hindrance, I think it’s better to start playing and working with the sound you find yourself naturally producing. That at least gives things a starting point whilst keeping it enjoyable, and relatively stress-free.
I think looking back on things now, a sensible way to label things would be atmospheric, instrumental rock music influenced by dance music. Across the board, we listen to rock music, but at the weekend we’re normally out listening to techno, house or disco music.
AH: ‘I Am The Storm’ is the first piece of new material since 2016’s ‘Ambivalence’ EP. How has the band’s sound evolved on this single and other new material?
Calum: ‘I Am The Storm’ actually happened rather quickly, maybe the quickest we’ve ever written a track. Aside from following a traditional pop structure more than our other tracks, and being shorter in duration, I think it still maintains the vibe we’ve been working with since 2012.
However, ‘I Am The Storm’ definitely marks the period in time where we started experimenting with different structures, drum machines, synthesizers and what not. Although these elements aren’t apparent on ‘I Am The Storm’, they’re playing a bigger part in the material we’re currently working on.
AH: In terms of new material, can we expect to hear some in the coming months?
Calum: We’re just finishing up pre-production on a bunch of new material, so new stuff isn’t a million miles away.
AH: Scotland has a history of producing exceptional instrumental bands such as Mogwai and Vasa. Why do you think that is?
Calum: I think the instrumental scene is thriving worldwide, not just in Scotland. However, it’s good to be in a country that is producing plenty of bands that are receiving global acclaim, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb and having zero audiences to engage.
It’s a bit of a bizarre genre because instrumentation takes many forms, ‘post-rock’ especially as a label can be confusing because bands like Hammock and The Album Leaf sound nothing like Russian Circles, Vasa or Mogwai yet they are all widely regarded as post-rock bands, and this seems only due to the presence of guitars, and absence of vocals. Mogwai still holds the crown to my favourite ever gig.
AH: Has living in a place like Motherwell influenced the band in any way?
Calum: Maybe subconsciously, Motherwell is a post-industrial town on the outskirts of Glasgow that hasn’t exactly thrived since the closure of Ravenscraig, the town’s major steelworks. I suppose the music we make doesn’t exactly match the aesthetics or atmosphere of the town, and I guess that might be an unintentional influence, and makes things quite exciting.
‘I Am The Storm’ by A Sudden Burst of Colour is out now.
At Face Value
Over the past six years, Maryland alt-rock/pop-punk outfit At Face Value have been honing their sound as they aim to produce relatable-yet-fun songs. On their third studio release, ‘Ivy & Echo’, they execute it with precision.
Songs such as ’24, Still Not Liked’ and ‘Return The Slab’ thrive on expected pop-punk traits; guitar-driven, upbeat and super catchy. Nevertheless, with organic lyrical maturity, the EP sees the quintet taking promising strides away from the ever-growing pool of pop-punk bands.
To learn more about their background, the making of ‘Ivy & Echo’ and the Maryland music scene, we spoke to three-fifths of At Face Value.
For Fans Of: All Time Low, Mayday Parade and Knuckle Puck
AH: For some, this is the first time hearing At Face Value. The band has been together for roughly four years. Can you give us a concise history of the band?
Parker Ross (guitar/vocal):
So, At Face Value used to be Out to See. This was pre Ross-brother era. A short time after the name change to Face Value, I met Alec and Jeremiah at a neutral friend’s party. We immediately clicked and just started jamming together. After a couple months of playing with them for fun, they felt what I could bring to the band might be something good. After a year, I introduced my brother, Gray, to the guys and we decided to add another member. We went as Face Value for a couple of years but with the planning of the release of ‘Ivy & Echo’ along with some other “political” circumstances, we decided to add the “At” which is how/why you now have At Face Value.
AH: And now you’re set to release a new EP called ‘Ivy & Echo’. It’s the latest in a series of EP’s and singles with the last being 2016’s ‘Thick As Thieves’. How has the band’s sound changed on this EP?
Grayson (Ross – guitar): Bands always say they are going for a different vibe, ‘they wanted to try something new’ etc. It would be cliché to say we didn’t do that here because when you listen to it, you’ll definitely hear a change of sound. But, we really just wanted to write songs that were fun to play, make us feel something awesome on the inside, and that people can relate to.
There is definitely a “bigger, bombastic” aspect to this EP compared to our past releases. Some may take it negatively, some may take it positively. We still feel there is a song on here for everyone, whether you get off on rock, punk, acoustic, or pop music! When it comes to instrumentation, it is definitely our most intricate release yet. Lyrically, Alec wrote almost all the beautiful words you’ll hear and I think he’s getting better and better, both vocally and physical appearance-wise.
AH: For this EP, you worked with Seth Henderson (Real Friends, Knuckle Puck). What effect did he have on the six songs that make up ‘Ivy & Echo’?
Jeremiah (Douglas – drums):
Seth had a great effect on the tracks in the studio! We went in with a good portion of each song written, but he helped us figure out little things that really make the songs pop. We have always loved the guitar tones he brings to the table and wanted to try and capture the same badass, in-your-face tones we are always banging our heads to.
He helped us figure out some leads for a few tracks and wrote what we like to call “ear candy” for a few parts. He gave us great ideas for bass, drum fills, harmonies, and even some structural changes to the last track (‘Return The Slab’), which he even hopped in the studio and banged out a few harmonies for. Seth was awesome to work with and we’re very satisfied with the touches he put on our songs. It was one of our favourite recording experiences.
AH: It’s well known that the pop-punk scene is brimming with up-and-coming bands. What does AFV offer that other bands don’t?
Grayson: We come from a variety of musical backgrounds and life experiences. Me and my brother, Parker, grew up really into Blink-182, Yellowcard, Good Charlotte and the mainstream pop punk and rock bands of the 90s/2000s. We like the effects and production of that time. Alec and Jeremiah grew up with an even more eclectic musical taste of bands that we had never heard of like I Call Fives, Knuckle Puck, Story So Far, and even 80’s music (because of Alec’s dad, Mr. Dave). This makes for an interesting mix of nostalgia and new-age pop punk and rock music.
I think we give people that vibe where they can find a middle ground between punk/rock bands from 20 years ago and bands of today. We all have differences that make the writing process tough, but we really embrace them as we continue to hone our sound. We try and write songs we will like but people from different rock and pop music genres can get down to. We have some punk, some Blink style, some pop songs, some acoustic, etc. There are so many great bands in the music scenes nowadays and everyone is diverse in their styles and songs, so it’s tough to stay unique. Hopefully, as we grow we can continue to do that and get even better at it.
AH: When we think of bands from Maryland, we instantly think of All Time Low and hardcore bands such as Turnstile and Trapped Under Ice. What is the state of Maryland’s music scene right now? What local band’s would you recommend to our readers?
Jeremiah: There’s so much great local music making its way around Maryland right now. We have the pleasure of sharing a practice space with our good friends in Something More, Rookshot, and Chris Swartz who all are amazing people, musicians and well worth checking out! Some other amazing acts from our hometown are My Heart My Anchor, Birthright, Sharptooth, Who Is Atlas, Fadest, The Chance, Skyward Story, Arc Of The Sun, and DRMCTHR to name a few.
We have a lot of awesome venues and promoters that make it so easy to get a show going and to have a great time while hearing some of our town’s finest tunes. We’ve been playing shows around Maryland for around four years now and our scene has gotten more and more enjoyable. Come to a show sometime and see for yourself.
‘Ivy & Echo’ EP by At Face Value is out now.