Loathe: “We’re in the midst of the best stuff we’ve ever written.”

An interview with Erik Bickerstaffe at Slam Dunk Festival

Loathe: “We’re in the midst of the best stuff we’ve ever written.”

By Mark Johnson

Jul 10, 2018 12:41

Bringing a new perspective to a well-established genre is no easy task, but Merseyside’s Loathe are deservedly turning heads with their fresh take on metalcore. Thanks to a signature tone that adds unparalleled heaviness to their sound, and a stage show that brings an interesting visual aspect to the performance, Loathe are on the rise. After stunning the Slam Dunk Festival crowd with another superb performance, we caught up with guitarist Erik Bickerstaffe to find out more about their future plans and that unique sound.

With show announcements coming thick and fast, including slots on some of the UK’s largest festivals such as Download and Slam Dunk, Loathe are growing in stature and the size of their crowds are expanding as well. Those packed into Leeds’ O2 Academy for the band’s Slam Dunk performance can attest to the rising popularity of the band’s live show. “It was insane. I knew it going to be sick, but I didn’t ever expect it to be that sick,” Bickerstaffe recalls. “It was mind-blowing. I think that’s the best response we’ve ever had with the biggest amount of people there, so that was amazing. Being able to sing the choruses and literally not hear myself for other people singing. There were some parts in ‘White Hot’ that I didn’t even do because the crowd was doing it for me. It was so good.”

The catalyst for the band’s growth in the last year is undoubtedly their stunning debut album ‘The Cold Sun’, released in 2017. With so much of a band’s success riding on that first record, Bickerstaffe couldn’t be happier with the response so far. “That was our debut album, so the idea of it was huge to us. It’s monumental and can be the first step for the rest of our lives really, so for anything good to come of it has been perfect. It’s honestly done way better than we could’ve imaged and given us these opportunities. I never like to expect things to happen – I got stuck with that when we first started because I just wanted everything – you’ve just got to really work at it and I think that does show. It’s really humbling to get these opportunities.”

Part of what makes ‘The Cold Sun’ such a rousing success is the unique sound that Loathe created for the record. Combining eerie samples with low tuned guitars and pulsating drums, the record has raw power that distinguishes it from other metalcore acts, offering a fresh and distinctive sound. The driving force for Loathe’s unprecedented heaviness is the guitars, which benefit from a creative set up: “We tune to E on a 30 inch scale baritone, but we keep the bass in standard tuning so it locks in so much. It’s less of that crazy low end and gives you more audible frequency. It just moulds better and creates a distinctive sound.”

This method of down tuning enables Loathe’s sound to be devastatingly heavy, but with crisp, clear notes that can be easily discerned rather being lost amidst the distortion of low frequency notes. “I like to think about our tuning like Meshuggah – they tune down to like drop F, but I don’t see them as a generic down tuned band. On the same level, Deftones’ Stephen Carpenter – you don’t think that’s a low tuned guitar because of way he plays it. I’ve tried to understand that and tried to mould it into my own playing style. I feel like me and Connor have our idea set for what we’re trying to do guitar wise. We’re trying to have our own unique sound for sure.”

As well as having a distinctive sound on record, the band’s live show offers a unique experience as well. TV screens are placed either side of the drums, streaming creepy, black and white footage as well as snippets of the band’s music videos, which coincide with the eerie music samples that play beneath the band’s instrumentation. Combined, it’s a sensory experience that adds to the atmosphere.

“We aspire to be larger than life, so we wanted to do something that separated us from the crowd and enhanced the visual experience of the performance because we don’t really see it as five guys on stage, it’s way more than that to us. A lot of people do say that we create imagery with our music – it influences scenarios in your head, so that’s what we’re trying to go for. That’s where the idea came from and in terms of the actual imagery, there’s a film called Begotten which is a silent, black and white film and it’s a personification of God killing himself. And it’s mad, it’s sick. Stuff like David Lynch, ‘Twin Peaks’ that sort of thing fascinates me and I just wanted to have a go at recreating it.”

Although the number of shows over the past few months has increased, Loathe still found the time to record two new tracks for a split EP with Holding Absence, titled ‘This Is As One’, which was released in March. It’s been less than a year since the release of their debut record, so it’s encouraging to see new material already surfacing, particularly given the sheer quality of new tracks ‘Servant and Master’ and ‘White Hot’. “We like to say we always write but there are times when we don’t! We think about the band every single day but when it comes to writing music it’s not something that we can just sit down and do, just because it needs to come naturally for us otherwise it’s not an authentic experience that we’re putting out. When it comes it comes and we’re in the midst of that. It’s the best stuff we’ve ever written and I know it’s cliché to say that but every band goes through the position of creating a sound and then maturing that sound to make it so much better and that’s where we are right now. It’s definitely the best stuff we’ve ever written and I’m very excited about it. Hopefully it’ll happen soon but I don’t know when it’ll happen. I hope soon because the more music the better, we’re a band we’re here to do music. If we don’t have enough music to switch up our set list then we’re not going to progress. I want it out as soon as possible, I love releasing stuff, I love giving it to everyone else and letting them enjoy it. It’s amazing to hear feedback and once that happens, just progress, note down what works.”

If you’ve been enjoying the subtle eeriness of the band’s music and the disturbing imagery that accompanies it, then fear not, it’s not about to go away. If anything, Bickerstaffe is looking at ways to increase its impact in the future. “For the next release we’re going to try and look at it a bit differently and try to create unique one off stories for each single thing; the dramatic experience of a full album encompassed into one song. And they all have their own distinctive character, kind of like a ghost story book, with each one having its own sense of terror that it gives you. Not that we’re trying to incite terror, we’re just trying to provoke emotion.” With a guitar tone like Loathe’s, there’s always some underlying terror. “I take that back, there are times when we’re trying to create terror, but it’s all good fun.”

While the band continue plotting their next record, there are plenty of opportunities to catch their creative live show throughout the rest of the year. “We’ve got two tours announced at the moment. July with Protest the Hero, Norma Jean and Cyclamen across UK and Europe. Two of the shows are already sold out, I’m so excited. It’s going to be sick. Then in September we’re doing a run with SikTh. Other than that we have other plans that we can’t say just yet.”