“Everything is this one big cohesive package”
More often than not, we tend to judge a band on face value but like they say, “you never judge a book by its cover.” For example take I, The Mapmaker. On the surface, they come off as just another technically proficient UK metalcore band, yet if you dig a little deeper there is much more than riffs, screams and breakdowns.
“The concept behind it is something I’ve had for about five years,” explains vocalist Ashley Emery as he discusses the quintet’s recently released debut EP – ‘Searching.’ The concept he refers to is one that revolves around a character called Ordnance and his missing wife and child. “There’s a lot of crazy stuff that happens while he’s stuck in his little cabin, thinking he’s somewhere else. He’s just walking around, completely emaciated, not sleeping, and talking to himself.”
The elaborate concept is multi-layered with Ordnance’s story being only one piece of the puzzle. “Everything is double-written and there is a personal meaning and a concept meaning,” says Ashley. “We wanted to have two sides, so if you didn’t know there was a concept you could still get your own meanings from it. All the songs have real deep personal meaning to me and some of the other members of the band.”
For Ashley, I, The Mapmaker and ‘Searching’ is the culmination of over two years work. Based across the South Coast (Southampton and Bournemouth,) Ashley along with guitarists Josh Graham and Nathan Kimber, drummer Jonny Browning and bass playing twin brother Perry, have been part of the local scene for the best part of 15 years. Whether it’s playing in various bands or going to shows, …Mapmaker‘s origins firmly lie in the South Coast. “Everyone gets along and knows everyone from the Joiners, the Anvil and other venues before they were shut down.”
Having been in and out of bands, Ashley’s brainchild is a new, bold approach as he admits to being put off by concepts in the past. Nevertheless, he has now fully embraced the idea, even fleshing out the story in a live setting. While some do the usual “standard band chat,” Ashley takes on the role as narrator, allowing to escape everyday life, to further the story that ‘Searching’ has started.
“There are so many times when you go to watch a band, you hear them on record and then you go and see them and it can be a bit underwhelming. The whole ‘how’s everyone doing?’ etc, it just feels so impersonal.
“With our stage shows, a lot of time it’s just spoken word, a lot of references to the story and concept because it’s not written down anywhere for anyone to read through, there’s still a lot of mystery and it’s quite fun.
“Everything is this one big cohesive package. I think when you can excel live and put on a bit more of a show then you can put a bit more of your personality out there. Help people connect with it more. You haven’t got people stood there, checking their phones, you have people who are engaged in the show and want to be there.”
Before speaking to Ashley, there certainly seemed to be an element of mystery to what Mapmaker are about. A couple of singles and the occasional interview was all we could find. While some emerging bands go all out; regularly posting updates on social media, leaving teasers etc, for Ashley and his bandmates, they have let their music do the talking.
With ‘Searching’ being double-written, the EP demands to be listened to intricately to fully grasp the personal and conceptual meaning. Recorded over a year ago, the five-piece worked with one of the UK’s go-to producers – Lewis Johns. “It was such a good learning experience. He’s fantastic,” proclaims Ashley. “Lewis knows what exactly he’s doing. At no point did he force us to do things we didn’t want to musically. Throughout we felt we were in good hands. He’s got so many good albums under his belt and he’s such a great guy as well. The two assistant he had there, Dom and Dan, were both heroes.”
Over the course of five days, …Mapmaker, Johns and his assistants would fine-tune the six songs on ‘Searching’. When speaking about the sessions, Ashley radiates with fondness as he recollects the care Johns and his team put into moulding ITM‘s songs.
“We trusted him with our musical baby, he loved and cared for it the entire time we were there. If something wasn’t perfect, he’d make us do it again. It was quite punishing at times, but it made sure the EP was the best it could be after those five days.”
“I just want to do it every day. It was a very proud moment, I’m surprised none of us cried.”
Having sat on the EP for over a year for various reasons, including bringing in Employed To Serve’s Justine Jones to do guest vocals on ‘Disbelief’. Ashley and company are now ready to tell the story of Ordnance, as well as their own. Kickstarted by an EP release show at Southampton venue, the Joiners, the show allowed the band to maintain a growing theatrical element, making use of a projector and lights. While local longtime friends, Griever and Deference, allowed Mapmaker to return the favour from previous shows. “We realised it was our EP release show and we wanted bands that have been part of our short time as a band,” Ashley says.
When asked to sum up the EP release show, Ashley beams by saying “I think it was the best thing I’ve been a part of in my entire life. It was ridiculous. I just want to do it every day. It was a very proud moment, I’m surprised none of us cried.”
Throughout our extensive chat, it’s clear Ashley is enjoying riding the wave of momentum …Mapmaker are currently on. With ‘Searching’ being complete for quite some time, it’s no surprise to hear its sequel is already taking shape. “We now have three songs done, so we’re now working out now what our plan is. Whether our plan is to go four or five and do another EP, and hopefully start to record them this year if we can,” Ashley explains when questioned about new material.
”So far we have two songs that are completely done, they just need to be recorded properly in a real studio, not just a home one. One is called ‘Weathered’ and the other is called ‘Promise’. We also another one called ‘My Dying Light’ and a fourth one called ‘Myeloma’, which will probably feature mainly Perry on vocals because it’s a more personal song to him.”
As Ashley tells us more about the future material, we can’t help but be excited and intrigued by what Mapmaker are working on. “It touches upon what happens when Ordnance leaves his home to try and find his wife and child, who has been missing for the past six months,” explains Ashley when discussing how the new songs continue the story that began on ‘Searching.’ “He’s still not been sleeping or eating for the past six months, so he’s somehow still alive. He’s emaciated. He basically goes out into the wide world with these hallucinations going on. It all gets a bit weird.”
Musically, Mapmaker has laid down a promising foundation on ‘Searching’. Blending metalcore with a hint of hardcore and ambience, Ashley hints the band’s future material expands furthermore having naturally recognised each other’s strengths since the making of ‘Searching.’ While the variety of vocals available to the quintet could be a longterm benefit.
“I’ve started to explore my clean range a bit more. I’ve never been that great at singing. Nathan is still so much better than me at cleaning singing. He has a higher range. It’s nice to lay down these soundscapes, layer things up and it doesn’t get messy because our vocal styles are so different,” Ashley tells us. “I think it does help on what we can do, what we have to work with and types of sounds we can create as a unit. We’re all still waiting for Jonny to decide to do some vocals. We’ve never heard him do vocals, so we’re thinking he has this secret opera voice hidden somewhere.”
While an operatic element is likely some way off, I, The Mapmaker’s journey ahead is ambitious yet well-thought out. It might have taken its members a bit of patience, yet you have to applaud the arduous idea that they have produced for their debut effort. While some new bands would put out the first five songs they’ve written out in the open, I, The Mapmaker have bided their time. It has resulted in an engaging EP that no band should probably produce at the first time of asking.
‘Searching’ EP by I, The Mapmaker is out now.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)
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