Interview: Basement

By Joe Sheridan

I’ve been a Basement fan for over 6 years, way back when they released their first EP ‘Songs About The Weather’, and from then on they have progressed and created a sound unique to them, cultivating a large dedicated fan base across the world. During their absence from the music scene their fan base only seemed to grow, and their first show back saw them play their largest headline shows to date. From then on, they have set the bar high for themselves, and only seem to be on the up.

Find out vocalist Andrew Fisher’s thoughts on the band past and present, from writing new music, to playing to larger crowds, and breaking out of the hardcore scene, and more.

Upon listening to the new record there are aspects of it that harks back to your previous work on your debut and ‘colourmeinkindness’. Was there an intention to write songs more in that vein than when you were writing for the last EP?

With anything we’ve done there’s never been a specific aim for a sound. It’s mainly kind of just us getting together, or sending each other stuff and whatever kind of comes out is what comes out. I guess we are still the same people, we still have the same music tastes and ideas, etc. so it’s always going to sound similar to previous stuff. But at the same time we also try to do things a little bit different. For example, we wanted to focus more on… well I wanted to focus more on melody rather than lyrical content, or rather than trying to sound heavier.

What comes out is pretty natural; we weren’t really trying to focus specifically on either sounding similar to what we did before, or sounding different.

I noticed with the EP that you released the year before last, with the production compared to ‘Promise Everything’, I don’t want to say it was more polished, but it sounded a lot bigger in comparison.

There ware a few things. The two songs we wrote on that were a lot different to anything we’d done before. That was deliberate because we thought we’ve got two songs, it would be really cool to try and do something a little bit different, knowing that we were going to write a full length in the near future.

So, going into, we said beforehand that if after a few years we were not into it, that at least right there and then this is what we wanted to do, so lets try it. That, plus, the fact that we did it at Livingston 1 Studio, managed by Miloco studios. It was amazing, not only because of Dan, the sound engineer and producer we worked with on the day, but the place itself. We did get Sam Pura to master it as well so there is elements of similar tones to that EP that were his own.

Over time your vocal range has developed exponentially. Was that something you became more conscious of when you recorded your debut?

Yes, I think so. I am definitely aware of it, but I think over time you get better at it, and I think the more I do it, the more you realise it is actually like a muscle and the more you use it the better you are. Especially in a live setting, the songs I’m used to singing, such as our older material, compared to our newer songs, my throat remembers how to do it. But, I think knowing what I am capable of allows me to try different things and do slightly more interesting melodies.

When you decided to make the band a full-time thing, what were you thinking about what you wanted to do differently?

That’s interesting, because I think the only thing different is that we want to do more. We still act as a group exactly as we have always done with regards to how we are when we are away, or when we write, or when we spend time together outside of the band. I just think we are doing it more, whereas before we didn’t have as much time. As far as attitudes go about the band, that is still the same, we still are really interested in doing new and interesting things, whether that would be writing, or playing specific tours.

In the current music industry climate where bands and artists alike depend more on themselves than perhaps they once did, has this affected how the band operates?

I guess it must have done, even though I wasn’t involved in the industry when things were different. We are lucky in that we have complete freedom with everything, the only contract we have is with our manager, who we only very recently hired. This was because our schedules were becoming too much for us too handle on our own. Before taking on a manager we took our time trying to find someone that we could trust, and someone who other people could vouch for. Other than that we don’t have a contract with a booking agent or a record label. Everything is just done on mutual respect, trust and understanding, so, that allows us to do what we want. Run For Cover especially is so supportive that they will let us do whatever we wanted. I am really happy about that because we can focus on doing what we as a group want to achieve.

I know other labels might work differently, but it will be more beneficial for them because they have that freedom, whereas other people might need more guidance.

We are all very new to this though, facing new challenges, whether that be stuff on tour or to do with recording in which we have to work out ourselves how to fix things. If there were support from someone else, whether or not it be a manager that oversaw everything, at least they would know what they were doing. I guess there are pros and cons about it, but I like that we control, even if it is our mistakes, we have control over everything.

It’s rather interesting to think about the democratic control a band can potentially have or not have in some cases. In the cases though where bands can have more democratic control, they have more freedom.

It is all about making that choice. I mean obviously they’ll always be those middle men where they’ll be labels that are not only incredibly wealthy, but also, really supportive. I’m sure there are cases though where people take offers from labels because they know it will get them exposure, but that could also mean they are signed into a deal where they have to have limited creativity.

How do you feel about playing shows with barriers verses ones without? Does it effect the atmosphere for you? Or does it feel like a natural progression you’ve made?

So, this is something we’ve been constantly battling with ever since we started playing to crowds around 300 or more people. Because I came up from the punk and hardcore scene, going to those shows, and many of us in the band did to be honest, and have all been in hardcore bands previously. The whole point of that is to be as close to everyone else in the room as much as possible, because there isn’t that divide between them and us and everyone there has the same mentality. So the idea of having a barrier is ridiculous, but in that scenario everyone is aware of what is going on and people understand that people will stage dive and mosh. But as soon as you come out of that scenario as we have done, and have been doing for the past few years, when you start entering into a slightly different scene where the fan base might be a lot younger, and isn’t aware of what is going on there is a safety issue involved.

When you’ve got young people who are really excited about seeing a live band and they’ve been at the front, to then get jumped on by guys or girls who have been coming to hardcore shows for maybe 10+ years, it just doesn’t work. Being on stage watching people get hurt who aren’t expecting to get hurt, who are there to see your band play, it isn’t a nice sight to see.

But, at the same time, I do like that closeness of having no barrier and I also don’t like telling people what to do. There was a stage where we were at where I was saying lets not do barriers and it was almost like I had to kind of politely request, because I’m never going to say don’t stage dive, because everyone is their own person, and they can do what they want. But if it means that they are going to stage dive and kick someone’s guitar and land on someone’s head, then don’t do that. It’s almost like now, if there is a barrier we are going to say, yes have a barrier.

I can recall the “hiatus” shows being absolutely nuts, it was just ridiculous.

Part of it is sad, because those shows were so great because there was no barrier.

But, I do understand that if your crowds are getting larger and larger.

And smaller, and smaller, as in the size of the fans.

You have to compensate for that.

I just think it comes down to what is going to make the best experience for everyone, for us on stage, and people coming to the shows. There will be opportunities for us to play smaller shows, that’s something we’d like to do, like recently when we were in America we did an off-show and it was in a bar for 100 people and it was great, because it was a small show. There wasn’t a need for a barrier and everyone was aware of what was going on. I want to play the Underworld again for example, and I don’t want to ever play that venue with a barrier, that’s ridiculous. I think it is just a matter of mixing it up, and hopefully at those smaller shows people will be more aware.

I mean, it’s a conscientious thing, I think people do get carried away at shows, like at hardcore shows.

I understand the differences as your crowds grow, there will be more people from the outside looking in, people who have no clue or idea of what hardcore, and the scene is about. They’ll see those shows and think, ‘wow!’.

But I want to accommodate to those people, and for them be as comfortable as people who saw us five years ago at some small hardcore show. It’s trying to find that weird middle ground where everyone feels like they are having a good time.

Do you feel like you are doing a good job of making a compromise?

I hope so. I mean, with the size of the venue today, I think it would be, perhaps careless? But if we were to play a show like today when there is going to be around 700 people in a huge room where the stage is quite high off the floor, you’ve got to have a barrier, otherwise that is silly. We played a show in Philadelphia without a barrier, and we played it on another occasion and it was sold out, and there was no barrier. It was fine because there was loads of people, but we played it the year following, or a couple of years after, and it wasn’t sold out, so there were spaces in the room, and people were stage diving, and it was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. People were just jumping into the floor. At the front you had your average gig goer, so they would not put up with people jumping on them. I can understand that, why would you want someone who is jumping on you if you are not expecting it.

When you play such festivals like Outbreak Festival, is it ever unusual to you to still see people stage diving, to your old and new material?

In those situations I’m trying to put myself into those people’s shoes as well, like I feel like when I was first going to shows I feel like I wanted to jump and mosh to every band, so I get that. But, I guess being a little bit older and writing music that I don’t think suits that, I also think why is that happening? But, who am I to say? If that’s what you want to do, that’s what you want to do. Sometimes with particular slower songs in the past people have done it, but you know, whatever.

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