Interview: Gallows [February 2015]

By Lais

A few days ago, we had a chat with Gallows bassist Stuart Gili-Ross about the band’s forthcoming album ‘Desolation Sounds’ (due in April), their UK tour dates and Slam Dunk appearance in May, Venn Records and more.

Your new album ‘Desolation Sounds’ is out in April. What can we expect?

Well, it’s a Gallows album so it’s got its heavy parts. I think traditionally Gallows albums are pretty blunt and ugly by design and I think that’s how we’ve always wanted to get our message across. With this one we wanted to experiment with a kind of – I think beauty is the wrong word – but try a bit more light and shade in our songs, so I think a good way to describe it would be a beautiful person with a gnarly disgusting scar across their face. It’s a more warped, twisted version of beauty. ‘Bonfire Season’ is the first single to come off it, but I think you shouldn’t take that as a marker for what the rest of the album’s like. As people will see from the other tracks that will be released, it’s probably the heaviest stuff we’ve ever done and I think putting ‘Bonfire Season’ first was a bit of a curveball to throw people off the scent. When people hear the rest of the album, they’re gonna be even more surprised at how nasty it is. We’ve been listening to a lot of different stuff. I don’t think the majority of the band listens to a whole lot of modern hardcore. We’re listening to a lot of diverse influences, so I think that’s what’s gonna come out most on the record. It doesn’t really sound like a straight up punk record.

What kind of stuff have you been listening to?

Well, me personally, I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music, strangely enough. Even like really old swing stuff, like Glenn Miller. There’s no classical or swing songs on the record, but in terms of dynamics and stuff, we’ve been looking to that kind of style of music to see how they did it. And actually I think classical music’s got some of the heaviest riffs ever written in the history of the world. I know Lags has been listening to stuff like Siouxsie and the Banshees, and a lot of Major Lazer, so it’s kind of everything really. A real mishmash, but it still sounds like Gallows.

I really love ‘Bonfire Season’. The video is so great.

Yeah, as people probably noticed, we’re not really keen about being in videos anymore. And I think Lags put it well when he said we’re sick of getting video treatments where people are like, “Gallows are playing this dark room and all these kids kick the door in and go wild!”, and it’s like, we’ve done those videos to death, and on ‘Grey Britain’ there’s so much of that stuff. It’s the first record we’ve really approached as a piece of art with a much wider palette than on other records and I think we wanted the videos and the aesthetic of the songs to represent that, so we hooked up with some directors we respected and kind of gave them carte blanche to listen to the record and put their interpretation on the video. There’s a lot of dark imagery in there which we’ve always been interested in as a band, and I just think that without the band being in it it leaves it much more open for people to fill in the gaps.

I think the way you described the album – with beauty and darkness – that definitely comes across in the video.

We’re doing something right then. Like I said, there are some pretty nasty songs, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m sure in true Gallows style, people will be like, ‘Ugh, Frank’s not on the record, this isn’t punk anymore’ and it’s not really punk rock. We’re probably taking more influence from the way earlier punk stuff, like Iggy and the Stooges and The Clash and there’s probably quite a lot of Discharge influences in there. Anyone who’s expecting two step mosh parts like at the end of ‘Misery’ might be disappointed.

But it would be boring if you kept doing the same thing.

Well exactly, and we’ve always wanted to get away from repeating ourselves on records as a band, and eventually people get onboard with it and that’s fine, but we wrote this record for us and we’re releasing it on our own label and it’s just music for us, and if people like it, then great, and if not, no worries. We make the music we want to listen to.

Do you have a personal favourite song on the record?

My favourite song on the record is probably the opener. It’s called ‘Mystic Death’, and I think it’s gonna be a live favourite. I can tell already. It’s probably the heaviest thing Gallows have ever written, without it being too far away from what people would expect from us, and then there’s a track called ‘Leather Crown’ coming which will be the instant grat track when people pre-order the record, and that for me is a standout track. It reminds me of the Scandinavian hardcore stuff that we’ve always been influenced by. I’m looking forward to people hearing that.

How has it been going with Venn Records?

Yeah, great. We basically started it as a way of putting out Gallows records, and then we thought we’d release 7” records of bands we wanted to help out that didn’t have a record out. So the first thing we released wasn’t Gallows, it was Marmozets, who have obviously gone on to bigger and better things, and then we put out Moose Blood who are killing it at the moment, and then we put out Milk Teeth who are obviously doing really well. Basically every band beginning with M. And we’ve got a lot more stuff coming up. So it’s going well. If we can keep bringing people’s attention to bands we think are cool then it’s good. It’s good for us to see bands using our platform then go on to get their own bigger records labels and do well. It’s great.

The ‘Bonfire Season’ 7″ came out this week.

Yeah, it’s got ‘Bonfire Season’ on it and a remix of ‘Bonfire Season’ by a guy we put out on Venn called Jesus Fucking Christ. He’s an artist from Norway who we think is really exciting and we were lucky enough that he wanted to do a remix for us. Then on B-sides we’ve got a Turbonegro cover and a Major Lazer cover, which is probably the most unique thing we’ve ever recorded. We had Marcia Richards from The Skints do the female vocal on it, so it’s gonna be interesting to see how people react to it. B-sides are always a cool thing to do. We’ve never been a band who’ve gone into the studio and had shit tons of songs left over. We tend to write records like you would write a book, and every song being a chapter has to be there, and when the book’s finished the book’s finished, so we never have extra pages left over to stick on as a B-side. So that’s why we’ve always done covers as B-sides, whether it be Sex Pistols or whatever. It’s always fun to do covers because we tend to get so serious when we’re making the records that having the time to lay out some covers of songs we like is a refreshing break from that.

You’re coming over to the UK in May.

Yeah, Slam Dunk’s just been announced, and we’ve got some headline shows which we’re really looking forward to. We’re keeping it really lean and mean on our touring schedule this time, because half the band live in Canada and North America, and the rest of the band in the UK, so we’re cherry picking a few of our favourite cities and bringing out Baby Godzilla which will be cool. That’s another band on Venn who are doing really well, and then Creeper and Departures will be doing selected dates on that as well which will be cool. And you know, if housekeeping will allow it, we might come back in the summer and do some bits and pieces.

How are things with Gallows, with half of you being away?

Well, Lags and I are constantly in contact. We run Venn Records together, it’s our thing. And the rest of us get on with it. Gallows has always been like that. In the ten years since ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ came out, we’ve never been a band that has had weekly or even monthly band practices. We get together when we need to write a record and we do these intensive months in the studio together and record things live. If we’ve got tour dates coming up we get together, usually in Watford, and practise for a week and get the set down. We do it like that and it keeps things fresh for us. I think since recording the album I’ll probably have to go back and listen to it a lot, but that’s what practice is for. It’s just business as usual for Gallows. I guess it can seem like, ‘How can they keep a band together when they’re all so far apart?’ but it doesn’t really affect our schedule. I think with anything if you wanna make it work then you find a way.

Have you got much lined up after the May UK dates and Slam Dunk?

We’ve got some ideas. Lags has got some pretty big ideas in the pipeline. We’re trying to approach things slightly differently on this album campaign, because who knows where it’s gonna go, but I can’t really say too much about it at the moment other than watch this space. We are trying to think outside the box this time. We’ve toured the world so many times that you can only see so many of the same venues in the same cities before you get bored of it, so we’re trying to come up with some fresh new ideas.


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