Latest release: Gallows (Halfcut/Shock)
Band site: www.gallows.co.uk
Since their 2005 formation, English hardcore punkers Gallows have built an enviable reputation for their near-peerless live shows and high-calibre, vital records. Following the departure of frontman Frank Carter last year, the band drafted in Wade MacNeil (Alexisonfire) and didn’t miss a step with their latest self-titled record, their third overall. They will also be tearing up stages at Soundwave 2013. Guitarist/vocalist Steph Carter (who joked that he was pleased to be doing interviews while his band-mates were loading in gear at a venue in Detroit) spoke to Loud about his brother’s departure, the state of hardcore and punk, The Used, American fans and more.
Q: How is the touring for the new record coming along?
A: It’s going okay actually; we did a six-week UK and European tour in September/October. Then I had two days off and I flew straight to America to start this American and Canadian run. So it’s going okay; we’re halfway through the North American run right now, we’ve got maybe another two weeks of it left and then I get to spend a few months off with my girlfriend for Christmas, which will be nice.
Q: You have such a strong and passionate following at home and in Australia. What’s your fan base like in North America though? Are you still trying to build a reputation there?
A: Still building, yeah. We’re definitely still building the band here. In the UK we’ve got, we’re renowned as being a British band, we’ve toured there so much, people know the songs wherever we go. We can pull a fairly decent crowd of people, and people get involved and enjoy it. In Australia, the two times that we’ve been down there, we had such a great time being there. We had so much fun while we were there; the crowds have been really into it and really loved it. In America, it’s very different. Some shows we’ll play it’ll be great, other shows we’ll play and it will be diabolical. We’ve never done a headlining Canadian tour before, so it’s nice to spend a bit more time in Canada on this run than America. You know, we’re finding that certain shows on the Canadian run have been far more fun than playing shows in, even certain places in Europe and the UK. We played two nights ago in London, Ontario, the crowd went absolutely ballistic and it was the best show we’ve played in a long time I think. It’s fun; it’s nice playing these smaller shows where you’re still trying to build your audience, because every now and then you’ll get a show that really takes you by surprise and it’ll make you realise why you love doing this again. Playing to people that have never heard the band before, who put everything they’ve possibly got into the performance, as much as you do. So that’s great.
Q: Many bands I talk to from outside the US tend to believe it’s a trend-driven market there, which can make it difficult for some acts to break through. Do you feel that’s perhaps a factor for Gallows, because you don’t fit neatly into any kind of category or “scene”?
A: Yeah, I definitely understand why people would say that about North America. I think the thing with North America more than anything, for me, is not so much trend-driven. I feel like when you play out here, the crowds are very standoffish, I guess. People here seem to, I don’t know, when you play in Australia or England, the second you start playing, people just let loose and get into the performance straight away. When you’re in America, it takes three or four songs of the set for people to warm up to it. They kind of stand there with their arms folded and are like, ‘impress me, I’ve seen it before’ (laughs). Whereas other territories around the world are just more open to doing it from the beginning, America seems very…. They just seem really fucking stuck-up (laughs).
Q: Well, the good news is you’re headed back to Australia in February/March, so you’ll encounter some fanatical audiences again then.
A: Oh, I can’t wait. The last time we played in Australia on Soundwave, we had so much fun. The first time we played, we did the Taste of Chaos tour with The Used in 2007, which was just fucking terrible. The Used are an awful band. But when we played Soundwave in 2009, 2010 it must have been, it was just great. The crowds really took to us; we had really great shows and we had such a good time. Everything was just so much fun. But now getting to come back, we’ve waited another two years; it’s going to be three years by the time we come back to Australia. So we’re hoping that people who saw us on the last run are going to be really pumped up to see us. People who were fans of what Alexisonfire and Wade were doing are also going to come to the shows. It’s going to be an exciting run of shows for us; I’m really looking forward to it.
Q: That’s the major point of difference since your last visit – you have a new vocalist. Was it a lengthy process to find a new frontman or did you know early on that Wade was the guy?
A: As soon as my brother left the band, the four of us spoke, we spoke on the phone quite a lot, trying to figure out whether we figured the band was done, or whether it was something we wanted to carry on doing. ‘Has Gallows finally had its day?’ we asked. We decided there and then that Gallows hasn’t had its day in the slightest; Gallows is still an important band and still has a lot to show people.
So we spoke about some people and Wade’s name got brought up. We played some shows with Alexis before; we did Soundwave with them, Warped Tour, played numerous festivals all over the world with them. So Wade’s a friend of the band, you know? We’ve enjoyed summers watching their band and they’ve enjoyed watching us. When his name came up I just called him straight away and I asked him if he’d be interested. He just said yes straight away, explained to me the situation with Alexis, he said that he’d be up for doing it. So I think he flew over a week later, we went straight into the studio and then we went straight on tour. So as soon as we spoke to Wade and we’d made the decision that was it. There was no second chancing it; as soon as he said yes, it was all go and we kind of didn’t leave ourselves open to it going wrong. It was like, ‘if this doesn’t work we’re fucked, so it has to work’. And luckily for everyone involved it worked really well. He came straight in, he’s very professional, he’s very, very passionate about punk rock music and about the way Gallows performs; he gets it. It worked perfectly well. He has the Gallows mentality through and through.
Q: Hedging your bets regarding anything doesn’t seem like a very Gallows thing to do.
A: Yeah, fuck it, we just go for it. Gallows has never been about compromise; we just go for it and if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, then shit happens. But the four of us in the band were confident. Wade knows what he’s doing; we’ve seen him perform before, we know of his love of this music, we know his love of hardcore punk music. For us, it was difficult at first when people I guess were slagging the idea of us having a Canadian join the band off, before they’d even given it a chance. The second people actually sat and listened to it and gave it a chance, we knew that everyone would get into it straight away. The four of us in the band at the time before Wade joined; we knew that we were making the right decision. We weren’t going to do anything that would be detrimental to the future of Gallows. Yeah, luckily for us it paid off (laughs).
Q: Did you expect some eye-rolling and snide comments when he did join the band? The British music press especially can be quite harsh at times.
A: Yeah, I mean, Gallows fans are very, very loyal to Gallows and a lot of people were very, very loyal to the original lineup of the band. But it’s one of those things that the solidarity between Gallows had been like on a razor’s edge for a very long time. You know, with my brother in the band, there were people fighting, people arguing a lot about stuff and it wasn’t a friendly atmosphere to be around for a lot of the time. So when Frank parted ways with the band, everyone felt very comfortable getting someone else to try out in the band and move forward. I think the band now is in a very good place it’s not been for a long time. So all of the people who slagged it off, the way we looked at it was, for all of those ten people who leave the band, a hundred more people are going to hear the record within the next year anyway, so fuck it, who cares? And most of the people who slagged the band off in the first place have all come crawling back since they’ve seen videos or come to a show and seen Wade and said, ‘he’s perfect. He is Gallows, so it doesn’t matter’.
Q: Have the British press come around as well?
A: Everyone’s been great, to be honest. There were a lot of people, like I said, who were um-ing and ah-ing about it, but luckily for us the British press were, ‘is this is the decision Gallows have made? We’re not gonna make a play on that until we’ve actually seen them with Wade’. So everyone gave it a chance before putting their final decisions on it. And everyone that’s seen it is (able to) see why the four of us in the band knew why it was the right decision for the band.
Q: Good to hear then. The band has always been honest in its delivery and that includes acknowledging your influences, but what do you think of a lot of music that gets given the hardcore and punk “labels” these days?
A: The problem with hardcore music and punk music is it’s kind of become a parody of itself. I think a lot of it’s just bollocks (laughs). I think people need to stop like trying to re-create music that they’ve heard because they think it’s going to be like the next big thing. Music would be a lot better if it was less like that. I think everyone should just go and write what they want to write for themselves and fuck everyone else off. My thing with punk rock is, like, I don’t think punk rock necessarily has to be heavy in the slightest, it needs to just be people doing what they believe and they don’t give a fuck about anyone else. I don’t really understand pop/punk music, but in saying that I don’t listen to what the ‘majority’ of people here would call punk music. I don’t listen to Rancid, and I don’t listen to shit like that. That’s not for me; I listen to rock ‘n’ roll music, I listen to Britpop music, I listen to prog-rock music. I’m not pigeonholing, the stereotypes of one particular style of music encompassing my life and that’s it. I just think my problem is the general consensus of music nowadays is that it’s not honest anymore. People aren’t making it for themselves; people are making music nowadays for, I guess the idea of pushing themselves forward to better themselves, rather than because they love what they do.
Q: It shouldn’t be about trying to be a celebrity, but that seems to the focus at times.
A: Exactly. Music should never be about that. Music should be about an expression of yourself; the most honest, true expression you can possibly give. I’m just saying that music’s not like that anymore; it’s dying off.
Q: What albums released in 2012 have you been excited by?
A: You know what? I have not really listened to really any new records that have come out this year. The Pure Love record actually, my brother’s record, which isn’t out yet, it comes out in February. I think it comes out in February next year, but I’ve heard that record and it’s unbelievable. It’s a really, really well-written record and I’m really happy that him and Jimmy (Carroll) have found something together that’s great, and he’s in a good place doing it. As far as new music goes, the Sharks record’s really good. They’re my favourite UK band; I love that band a lot. The new Rolo Tomassi record, Eva (Spence) sent me a copy of it recently and that record’s incredible as well. I’m really glad those guys have found their feet with the departure and their new members joining. Another band I really like the new record of is the Turbonegro record. They’re in a similar position to Gallows, with Hank (von Helvete) leaving the band and Tony (Sylvester), who’s a very good friend of ours joining the band. I think they’ve written a very honest, very good record. So I guess there is a lot of music out there at the minute, but to be honest, I’ve named, what, four records that came out this year that I liked? How many records were released in 2012? And I’ve named four that I like. That’s the problem with music nowadays, there’s so much shit saturating the industry that the good records slip through the cracks.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: No, I’ll leave that to someone else more dignified than myself (laughs).
Gallows will be performing at the completely sold out Soundwave 2013.