Interview: Lonely The BraveWritten by Kenny Leys
Things will matter’ is the second album from the british band lonely the brave, and they’re more than ready to introduce it to their European fans. We met two of its members in antwerp, where they played a gig later that night. Andrew Bushen (bass) en Ross Smithwick (guitar) were clearly in a good mood -a sunny day in Belgium is definitely something to be cheerful about- and were happy to do a quick recap of the summer they had so far.
Andrew (Bushen, bass player): “We’ve just been bobbing around Europe, really. It’s been amazing so far, but pretty weird as well. We stayed in this small, weird German village some time ago. We had a great time, ‘cause they made really good wine in a local winery, but it was quite bizarre at the same time. Hard to explain why, but it really felt like we were in The Truman Show. It had something of a sixteenth century village with only a couple of 56-year-olds walking around, which was really disturbing, actually (laughs).”
Ross (Smithwick, guitar, vocals): “Just a bit creepy, really.”
Andrew: “But here, in Antwerp, it’s fun as well. We basically just had some drinks, all day long. Some of that good Belgian beer. And I wanted a haircut. Failed. And I also wanted to get a tattoo. Failed that too. So drinking is all we did, basically. Oh, and we’ve had some chips too.”
So touring across Europe is quite agreeing with you?
Ross: “It’s been fantastic. We’ve played some amazing gigs in Amsterdam, Berlin as well. All great places to have been and perform. Everything seems to be getting bigger. It’s very exciting.”
Andrew: “Berlin is an amazing place to play. It’s quite special to us, I dunno… It’s the way the crowd sings back our songs, the atmosphere… Amsterdam is also a nice place to play a gig. It’s like they really get what we’re about, you know? And as for the rest of the summer, we’re really excited about that too. We’re playing a lot of smaller gigs this year, playing our new record.”
Ross: “We did the big festivals last year, like Reading, Leeds, Glastonbury… But we like playing the smaller festivals this time around.”
Seems to me that there’s no nicer way to spend the summer than touring across Europe.
Ross: “That’s the best thing about going on tour, seeing one place after another, meeting lots of new and interesting people.”
Andrew: “It’s mainly about just doing the shows and for the fans who want to see us perform. But it’s nice as well to have a day off and see some of the city we’re in at that time. But playing a lot is what we much rather do. Although I quite miss home sometimes (laughs). And my bed. And my girlfriend. And cat.”
I suppose it’s something you’ve gotta get used to, right, being on the road?
Ross: “Yeah, and this time around we had an actual tour bus. It was nice, but not when all power is out and you’re all stuck together in that same bus. Without air conditioning or any windows.”
Andrew: “There were windows?”
Ross: “Yeah, but there might as well couldn’t have been(laughs). It was all quite see through. Anybody could see us in our natural habitat.”
Kind of like the windows in Amsterdam?
Ross: “Yes, but a lot less attractive, trust me (laughs). But yeah, a dozen men in one van that feels like forty degrees, it’s the less fun aspect of going on tour. But it’s been pretty much relaxed, really…”
And did you enjoy playing at the big festivals the most or rather small venues like Kavka in Antwerp?
Andrew: “We definitely like playing both. We’ve played shows where there was a crowd of a thousand, and then during some of them like a hundred people turn up, but it still feels like there’s a thousand of them there, you know? You can never tell, every night, every gig is different. Sometimes we play shows and we honestly thought we played a bad show, but then people come up to us and tell us they loved it.”
Ross: “It’s nice to hear people like the new songs, we’ve had quite a lot of positive feedback. That’s why we like touring right now. Fans have been thankful for the new stuff so far.”
But I wonder: is there such a thing like a boring or not-interested crowd?
Andrew: “The fact people turn up specially to see you play is incredible. Sometimes you have an audience who just listens, people who aren’t there to go mental, but who stand more… stationary during the show. Especially now with the new record, because people don’t really know the songs yet. At other places, you have a crowd that does go fucking mental. You just never know.”
Talking about the new record: what’s it like playing the new songs live?
Andrew: “Absolutely amazing. Some people already know the lyrics to some of the new stuff, and we’ve heard a lot of good comments so far… So yeah, we’re pretty excited to play them live.”
Ross: “Our set isn’t filled with new songs, it’s more 50/50. That way it’s more fun for us to play the old songs. During the new material, people mostly listen while they go mental when they hear an older song.”
Is there a huge difference between this one and the first record?
Ross: “Oh, everything’s changed since the release of the first record. We’ve changed quite a lot ourselves since the debut. The new album sounds more mature, and a lot of stuff has happened during that period between the first and this record. We haven’t only changed as musicians, but as individuals as well. We’ve had an interesting eighteen months… quite life-changing. We’re in the music business now, you have to be aware of a lot more stuff that goes on. Especially when you’re at where we are now, as a band. You’re not only a musician, but you’re kind of forced to be a business man too. But these past months have made us stronger and we’ve gotten closer as a band. We’ve seen and done some amazing things, a lot more good moments than bad ones. What we really like is how we got the opportunity to do exactly what we wanted for the second record, and that they trusted us with our decisions.”
Was it hard writing the new album?
Andrew: “No, not really. There are always difficult moments you’ve got to get through as a band, but you the best out of each other that way. But in general, everything came quite naturally to us. A bunch of the new stuff was already done or we had some ideas for it. We focused on writing for four, five months maybe, to make sure we had everything we need before we got to recording in the studio.”
I’ve read you worked on the record somewhere in a barn on the countryside?
Andrew: “It was like, uh, a converted barn with a little studio in it. We’ve recorded pretty much everything there. It’s a beautiful location to record and write. Closed off from everything. Out of the big city, pure concentration.”
Is the big city not the right place for you to work on an album?
Ross: “Nah, not for us as a band. An abandoned barn in the countryside, now that works for us. Locking ourselves up, away from any distractions. Otherwise we get too easily distracted.”
Did you carefully consider what the new album would sound like?
Ross: “We never have any conversations about how we want to sound like, or like who. We do listens to fantastic music, but that doesn’t mean we want to sound like it… People always try to tell you what you sound like or what or who you resemble, but I personally don’t feel we can label our music or put it in some kind of box. We just play the stuff we like ourselves. It’s a collective of different sounds.”
Would the record sound very different if you’d recorded it in the city?
Ross: “Yeah, ofcourse. Everything you do effects your life… All the choices we’ve made to make this record -music, art work, … - it all depended on the place where we recorded and written the new material. Every experience you go through changes you, or has a certain influence.”
Andrew: “A lot of things would’ve been different. For example, we could have chosen a totally different producer, and then it would’ve sounded nothing like the record we have now. The producer for this album really gave it his own touch, and we’re so glad he did. Everything, absolutely everything would’ve been different. And it’s not only when you’re in a band. Same goes for everyone. The decisions you make always effect your actions. It’s the same thing in music. Just try to do it your own way, whatever makes you feel comfortable, and in the situation you’re in at that time.”
It all does sound a bit like therapy, no?
Ross: “Everything we do is a way to convey our emotions. But I wouldn’t necessarily call it therapy. Although our lyrics have gotten very personal. The first record was more honest.”
Andrew: “But it is a way to express ourselves.”
Ross: “Especially on stage. Our last gig with the first record… I remember, like, a wave of emotions coming over us afterwards. I dunno how… A lot of the time, you stop thinking about everyday stuff on stage, you know. And then you get off and you start thinking about your life outside, your family, …”
Andrew: “We put a lot of emotions in what we do. It’s all very honest and real. We make music about real stuff, stuff everybody knows about. It always comes up, whether we’re writing, recording, performing… If that wasn’t the case, then we wouldn’t be doing it right.”
There’s always this one song on a record that personally means something more to you. Which one is it on this second album?
Ross: “For me it’s ‘Jaws of hell’. It took me two years to write and finish it. It literally kicked my arse. But eventually I got through it.”
Andrew: “It was the last song we recorded. And the last song on the album. It was quite a proud moment for us, finishing the record. It’s the best feeling ever, when you put all that time and energy into something and finally… it’s done, you know? It kind of feels like baking your own loaf of bread. Every bit of satisfying.”
Ross: “He’s always going on about how he can bake his own bread.”
Andrew: “I love it. I will bake you a baguette some time, Ross.”
Ross: “You do that.”
And what is your special skill, Ross?
Ross: “Oh, I haven’t got one. I’m ginger, for God’s sake.”
Keep working on the new material perhaps?
Andrew: “Oh, we’ll never stop! We don’t get to stop and pause. We’re always working on new stuff, and we’ve been planning quite a lot for the third album.”
Ross: “As long as they let us, we keep doing what we do. We still have loads to do. We just hope people will keep on turning up.”
I honestly don’t doubt that for one bit.
Andrew: “As long as we treat them right!”