“If we didn’t try and push our boundaries and wrote the same album over and over again, that would be fucking boring”
Throughout 2015, Feed the Rhino were poised to become metal’s most important and influential band. With storming sets at Download, Reading & Leeds and Hevy Fest under their belts, and an impact left on bigger venues after playing main support on Enter Shikari’s Mindsweep tour, the Kent quintet had a formidable reputation as masters of powerhouse grooves and immense choruses to match. Then out of nowhere it all came to a halt, and we were left with nothing but silence.
“The five of us never really thought that there was gonna be any sort of breaks in this band, because we all love each other dearly like family and we always enjoyed the music,” FTR’s powder keg frontman Lee Tobin states. “We just got to a certain point where we realised ‘we’ve done a lot’, and there were a few things that we just wanted to get more involved in on the outside of the band like family lives and things like that which sometimes do take a bit more precedent.”
“But I think we’d come to a point where we were trying to write new material and it was feeling a little stale and we couldn’t pull things together, and it just felt like the right time to have a bit of a break. Everyone went away for a little while and I think it did us all a world of good.”
Released this month, their fourth full-length record ‘The Silence’ was created after a lengthy period of time away from music, which allowed each member time for self-reflection and personal development that living in each other’s pockets for months on end doesn’t allow one to do. “We barely picked a phone to each other and it’s really odd for us because we’re like mega close,” Lee explains. “It made me personally realise my love for the band. That was never in doubt, that was never in question, we all love Feed the Rhino so much, it’s what we created, but for me it was knowing how much you miss something when it’s not there.”
Thankfully for Lee, his bandmates, James Colley (guitar), Sam Colley (guitar), Chris Kybert (drums) and Oz Craggs (bass) also missed FTR. Though marriages and childbirth brought mass changes to the lives of members, they realised it was time to record new music.“After we picked up the phone again and said ‘let’s start writing,’ and everyone said, ‘yeah, this is the right time’, we started coming up with ideas and instantly, the buzz was back! It was right there, the songs just sounded amazing, it was just the right time.”
Writing a follow up to match the riff juggernaut displayed on 2014’s ‘The Sorrow and the Sound’ was never going to be a simple task, but with enough time away, the band returned with a grander vision for their songwriting already realised. “The songwriting on this album was fucking easy, it just fell together,” Lee admits. “I’ve said it before, and it’s kind of a repetitive phrase, but every album we’re trying to write a better album than the last. But if you look back over the albums, the thing that really stands out on this album is the choruses are slightly more ambitious, they’re a bit cleaner than what we’ve done before.
“I mean, some people are gonna fucking hate it, let’s face it, that’s just the truth of it. But as a band, if we didn’t try and push our boundaries and wrote the same album over and over again, that would be fucking boring.”
Prior to the album’s release, the release of single ‘Losing Ground’ demonstrated this boundary pushing FTR aimed for on ‘The Silence.’ Thriving on Lee’s clean vocal delivery, it’s strength comes in it’s display of tired fragility from a figure associated for running about stages and screaming in punter’s faces. “People have already said ‘Wow ‘Losing Ground’, that’s such a crazy song to put on one of your albums,” Lee says before offering his rebuttal. “It’s not really because if you look over the last three albums, we’ve had interlude songs that sound like that, and we had ‘Tides’ and ‘Empty Mirrors’, but this song, we didn’t wanna write an interlude, we wanted to write a track that we thought was worthy to put on an album. And again, it was easy to write because it just felt naturally good to write.”
Needless to say, the aggressive punk rhythms that Feed the Rhino built their original sound on are to be found in spades on ‘The Silence’ as well, and Lee points to ‘Nerve of a Sinister Killer’ being a source of that natural FTR energy. “There’s always gonna be riff based songs which are bouncy, that are kind of jumpy,” he says. “And I think songs like ‘Nerve of a Sinister Killer’ are quite natural songs for us to write. If you look at ‘Give Up’ on the last album, it’s kinda similar, but ‘Nerve of a Sinister Killer has a little more bite, it’s a little more aggressive.
“I think it’s one of the best tracks, it’s like a slap-in-the-face from start to finish, and you’re always gonna find that on a Feed the Rhino album.”
From the high-octane bounce of ‘Nerve of a Sinister Killer’ to the epic soundscaping that punctuates the chorus of ‘Fences’, ‘The Silence’ is an album that embraces the diversity that writing heavy songs with a punk and metal influence allows any songwriter. What ties these song’s together is Lee’s razor-sharp vocal delivery and lyrical outpouring of pure disdain, often taken from a self-inflicted point of view. “I try to steer clear of things that are truly opinionated. At the end of the day, I’m not a politician, so I’m not going to try and write anything too politically strung, so 95 per cent of the album, is definitely personal to me, it’s definitely personal feelings that I am expressing,” Lee explains.
“But I definitely feel like with everything I write, it always feels like I’m getting something off my chest because that’s your arsenal isn’t it? That’s your ammunition. As a lyricist and a vocalist in a band, you have to have something to write about otherwise you’re just writing bollocks.”
Of the many issues Lee felt it was important to write about, one standout topic is his scathing critique of the music scene and industry the band found themselves trapped in on closing track ‘Featherweight.’ With refrains of ”this scene is featherweight” and concerns about ‘being played’, it’s a slab of brutality that comes from a place of total frustration. “‘Featherweight’ was written and released around the time that we parted ways with music, so you can kind of see the end of the tether in that song can’t you?”, Lee states. “At the end of the day, you put so much of your heart and your soul into something, the you see it get bastardised, taken advantage of and taken for granted.
“It’s always going to happen, and I’m never going to mention any names, I mean people work very very hard in the music industry if you’re in a band,” Lee elaborates. “But I think sometimes the way bands present themselves and the way the music industry acts, it can be jarring. And when you’re in something for a long time, you start to see a lot of true colours, a lot of different things coming out in people, a lot of reasons why people do things for certain reasons.”
While ‘Featherweight’ aims it’s disappointment and frustration at a collapsing music scene that Feed the Rhino chose to leave behind, Lee embraces the wealth of original talent flowing through the veins of the industry today. “The music industry is so fucking huge, and has been for years and years and years, and it’s always gonna shift and bend, and be manipulated in some way. That’s why it’s so great to see people being so original,” Lee says. “Look at someone like Jamie Lenman, that dude’s just inspiring because he’s a fucking genius, I told a journalist the other day that I think he’s the Beethoven of the music industry. He’s wild and he’s brilliant and his ideas are refreshing and inspiring as well because he’s authentic. It’s so great to see that sparkle of light amongst the fog.
“There are a lot of great bands out there that do really great things, and there are bands that have been around for a long time doing really great things. My favourite heavy band at the moment is Architects, and what they’re doing and what they’ve done as a band and the music they’re writing is just brilliant, and from what I know, they’re a really nice bunch of dudes who work hard. It’s really good to see that right now, it’s refreshing.”
Alongside similarly refreshing artists Bad Sign, Haggard Cat and Cove, Feed the Rhino are set to begin a full-length UK tour, before playing a number of shows in Spain and Festival sets including HammerFest on Prestatyn, Wales and a spot on the main stage at the revered Hellfest in Clisson, France. The tour will be the lengthiest headline tour FTR have embarked on since 2015 and Lee looks forward to returning to the chaos of it. “The way to look at it is, we’ve got an opportunity to go out and have some fun,” he says. “It’s going to be a challenge, I know we’re playing for a good 20 minutes longer than we usually play when we headline, so that’s going to be a bigger challenge because we want to fit more songs into the set.”
“So there is going to be a good bit of preparation, we’re going to have to all be there for each other and to just enjoy it, and put no pressure on each other.”
With a number of shows confirmed for later in 2018, FTR are coming back stronger and more determined than they were before they took their first break, and with a new collection of their strongest and most ambitious songs to date on ‘The Silence’, their truest potential is about to be realised by bigger audiences, whether they knew about them first time round or not. As Lee Tobin considers the amount of shows he has in the pipeline, he realises now that break time is over and band time is now. “This is just the beginning now, we’ve got a lot more to come so we’re gonna take our time to enjoy it.”
“We’re in this for the long run. Feed the Rhino ain’t going nowhere.”
‘The Silence’ by Feed the Rhino is out now on Century Media Records.
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)