Interview: Birds In Row [April 2015]

By Glen Bushell

The European hardcore and punk scene has been a thing of legend for some time now. It has produced some of the finest music from the entire spectrum of aggressive music, and played a huge part in influencing a lot of bands across the world. One of the most inventive bands to come out of this scene in the last few years has been Birds In Row. They hail from the small town of Laval in Western France and have received critical acclaim for their intense hardcore punk, particularly since signing with Deathwish Inc, and releasing their stunning debut album ‘You, Me & The Violence’ in 2012.

On the first night of their UK tour at a last minute show in Canterbury at a practice room, we caught up with them to discuss life back home, their forthcoming releases, and the importance of letting their music be the only focal point of the band.

It’s the first night of your UK tour, are you glad to be back over here?

It’s been two years since the last time we played here, so it’s very cool to be back. We’ve been asked a lot to come back to the UK but it was hard for us to manage it. Most of our recent tours have been central Europe, USA, and Australia, but we are super stoked. Tonight is also a last minute show, because our show in Bristol got cancelled and they have been kind enough to have us on the line-up here, which is awesome.

Do you have any memorable moments from touring the UK?

Well, a lot of people have troubles touring in the UK, but we have always been very lucky. The first time was with Loma Prieta and Punch so it was in very good conditions, a lot of people at the shows, and we always had places to stay from the beginning. We met a lot of good people there. The second time was pretty much on our own, but our friends Bastions joined us on a lot of shows and we got to drive to up to Aberdeen in Scotland for example. We have a lot of great memories in the UK. We really just like touring here, so we do feel very lucky.

You join up with Modern Life Is War later in the week for their European tour. Are you looking forward to that?

We are super excited as they are one of our all time favourite bands. When we first started Birds In Row they were one of our biggest influences in many ways. We feel they come from a similar town to us, like a small town in the middle of nowhere. France is not very famous for punk and hardcore, and there’s not a huge scene there, so we can relate very easily to Modern Life Is War’s lyrics. Also, with them being very hard working when they were around the first time, that’s pretty much what we have also tried to do since the beginning.

Then they stopped, and we thought we would never get to see them. We had a chance to see them play last year in Boston and that was one of the best shows we have ever seen. We heard they didn’t have many people coming to shows in France before they broke up, but gained more attention after. We were pretty pissed about not seeing them, but the Boston show was, not a revelation as such but like “Fuck yeah! Finally!”

We spent a bit of time with them at the Deathwish headquarters, and they were really nice dudes, so we are stoked to be able to spend a week with them even as people. A lot of the shows are already sold out which is pretty crazy, and the venues are quite big for us. We have wanted to play The Underworld in London for some time as well so it’s great to get to play there finally.

Earlier in the year you toured Australia, how was that? Was it your first time over there?

Exotic! No, we can’t complain, it was like being on holiday and still getting to play a show every night, and it’s great to experience summer during the winter as well. Its also nice to travel so far from home to play shows, especially this kind of music, and we never thought we would play in Australia as it’s a 23 hour flight away. People were really nice and we got very lucky with the shows too.

You even went out to Perth which a lot of smaller bands don’t do. Is that right?

The people booking the tour wouldn’t book a show in Perth as they weren’t comfortable with the cost and thought we would lose money. We got very lucky and were added to a show and played to 300 people, broke even, and people appreciated us being there because as you say, not a lot of bands go out there.
We know the feeling though as we come from a small town in France as I said, and there’s not a lot of interest for shows. Most of the time you have to go to Paris, or maybe Nantes, so we know what it’s like not having bands play your town. We always try to play wherever we can. When you play somewhere where there aren’t many shows, people appreciate it more, and that is such a good feeling.

You recently got added to Ieperfest in Belgium in the summer: are you looking forward to playing there for the first time?

We are not really a festival band, but this summer it’s all festival shows. We played Fluff Fest in Europe once which was great, but we have heard a lot of good things about Ieperfest so we are excited to play.

Late in 2014 there were reports that Birds In Row had broken up. What actually happened there?

It was a change of line-up, but it was pretty brutal. We never feel that it is about any one member in this band and we let the music do the talking for the most part, but it was obvious something was happening. So yeah, it was brutal, but that’s it.

What is life like outside of the band back home?

We all have jobs, one of us is a lighting designer, one of us makes wooden jewellery, and another a tattooist. Also our bass player has a solo project called Throw Me Off The Bridge, which he is playing a lot of shows with. We all try to bring our own work in so we can be free to play shows whenever we can.

What is the hardcore and punk scene like in France?

It’s weird, you can’t really call it a scene. There are a couple of people setting up shows here and there, but there’s not much of a community anymore. You can see it from our tour dates that we play a lot more outside of France, and it’s only been in the last few years since being on Deathwish that promoters are interested in putting us on, and at the beginning it was harder to play shows. We know a lot of the touring bands in France, but that’s just a very small part of the music community.

It’s been three years since you released ‘You, Me and The Violence’. Were you at all surprised by how well it was received?

You can never expect anything from what you are doing, but we are always pumped when you see someone singing the lyrics to your songs because you feel they have been touched in some way by our music. We knew that being on Deathwish would give us more visibility, but it’s just very weird I guess. Even the idea of touring outside of France for us never seemed possible, so it’s just another one of those crazy things that has happened to us.

We are always happy when we see people talking about the record on the Internet, or talking to us after a show saying how it maybe got them through something, or even that they just love the record. It’s also touching when people you have known for a long time, who maybe didn’t like the music we made before, come and tell you that they really like the record.

Are there any plans for new music on the horizon?

We have a new EP out this Summer. It’s already recorded, and we just got the masters back recently.

Did you record that back home in France?

We have had the same producer on everything that we have done, because as we were starting the band he was starting his studio so we have grown up with him being a sound engineer. He’s like the fourth member of the band, and he’s worked so hard with us by giving advice, and putting a lot of himself in the records, and we trust him 100%. We also have a couple of splits on the way as well, so we just need to put all the pieces together.

Will those be with Deathwish Inc. again?

The EP is going to be with Deathwish, and the splits on some smaller DIY labels that have supported us at some stage, as we wanted to give something back to them. One will be out with our friends Throatruiner Records, which is a great label and have been our friends for a long time. One of the bands we are going to be doing one of the splits with are also from the same town as us, so it makes sense to have it come out on Throatruiner given as we are all from the same scene.

Where do you take influence from in terms of sound?

Everywhere. Some of us listen to folk, electro, hip-hop, punk rock, hardcore, it’s so large. You can’t really say exactly where as any record you listen to is going to influence you in some way. Even if it’s a bad record, you will be able to say “I don’t want to do that!” The cool thing is that as we have different projects we know what direction we want to keep Birds In Row going, but we can also bring elements of those projects in that you probably wouldn’t find in hardcore.

We know the atmosphere we want from the band, and how we want it to sound because we have known each other for a really long time. We all know each other’s tastes, what we can do, and what we want to do.

Were any of the French “screamo” bands such as Daitro or Amanda Woodward an influence on you?

Yeah definitely, they were all great, and a lot of them have very cool projects going on now too. We had a great screamo scene with bands like those guys, and Aghast as well, and they influenced us being from our country, and Amanda Woodward was probably one of the first French screamo bands that we listened to.

You also made a conscious decision to sing in English rather than French: is that correct?

Most of the bands we listen to sing in English, and there is a lot of pride in the French language so it’s hard not to sound dumb when writing. The example we always use is that if you were to take a Ramones song and translate it to French it wouldn’t make any sense, but in English it works because of the punk rock culture. We always felt it was easier to write lyrics in English, as we try to have a message in our music and it’s easier for people to understand it that way because not everyone would take the time to translate it.

You maintain a certain degree of anonymity as a band, such as only using members’ initials, and cropping your faces out of photographs. What was the reasoning behind this?

It’s based on the fact that the DIY scene isn’t supposed to have the same codes as the mainstream scene. Even though we are probably not the best ambassadors for the DIY scene, we never felt comfortable having our faces in promo pictures as it would maybe feel a bit like a boy band? Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s all about telling people to listen to the music no matter what we look like, who we are, how many members we have in the band and so on.

We of course need to have our punk rock and hardcore community, and we have our certain codes that influence each other, but it should always be in the best way. Sometimes though it feels like something is wrong, and it’s not the best way to do it, so this is our way of doing things. For example, all of our merchandise is done on donations, and people often think that’s ridiculous, but that’s the way we feel comfortable doing things.

This is a project between three people, and it’s just about the music we make. If we didn’t have to make t-shirts we probably wouldn’t either, but it’s hard as we need to support ourselves. We could totally not do any promo pictures at all, but we feel cropping our faces out stands up for what we want to say. This is our opinion about it, and it means something to us.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Not really, just thank you for doing this so last minute!

Birds In Row will be on tour with Modern Life Is War throughout the UK and Europe this month, which you can see all the dates for below.

10 MANCHESTER Sound Control
11 LONDON Underworld
12 PARIS Nouveau Casino
13 WIESBADEN Schlachthof
14 LEIPZIG Conne Island
15 VIENNA Arena
16 COLOGNE Underground
17 EINDHOVEN Eindhoven
18 KORTRIJK De Kreun

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