Hard work pays off, or at least that is what we are taught when we are growing up. This also applies to the music industry, but often gaining popularity walks hand in hand with growing in a direction you don’t want to grow. Does this mean that you’ve got to sell out if you want to see the world and grow as a band? No, it does not! Lionheart is a band originated from northern California and they are determined to keep doing things their own way.
- I just saw your show here on Ieperfest, really great show. What did you think of it yourself?
Thank you. Yeah it was a great set, really awesome. We had to play really early in the day, so we were all kind of, I don’t want to say nervous, but maybe apprehensive on how the set was going to go. I think we probably had one of the best sets yet today on the main stage, so I feel really good about that. I’m very appreciative to everybody that came out to see us play, that’s really cool and we had a lot of fun.
- You mentioned on the stage it is the second time that Lionheart is playing Ieperfest, tell us about that experience?
Yeah, it was in 2008. I think we opened the main stage that year if I remember correctly. Or maybe second or something, but it was okay. Not as good as today, because it was the first time we came here and nobody really cared. Not a lot of people showed up, compared to this time it was nothing.
- What do you think of a festival such as Ieperfest?
I think it is a great festival. But I’m not vegan, so I wish it wasn’t all vegan [laughs]. I just wish I could get a fucking hamburger, but it is cool. I think veganism is cool if you are into that, but I just think it would be awesome if they had some options for people that didn’t necessarily feel the same way. Other than that, Ieper has a great fest and I hope we will play it again. Maybe you could sneak me in a hamburger [laughs].
- Well maybe you should try one of the hamburgers on the fest. I’m not vegan myself, but I would trade any typical festival burger for one of those caterings right here. They are real nice you know.
Actually the waffle sandwich place is very good. I got some Indian waffle sandwich, very very good.
- Haven’t had them, but I’ll check them out later. We were talking about festivals. If you had to choose about a festival show or a venue show, what would you choose?
That is a hard question. Obviously festival shows are great because we play for exponentially more people, you sell a lot more merch, and you reach more people and stuff like that. Of course festival shows are great, what band wouldn’t want to play Ieperfest? Every American band that I know from home that never went to Europe, talks about on how much they would like to play Ieperfest.
Yeah of course, a lot of people know about it in America. It is very big there, so of course you would want to play there. But on the other hand, club shows are also very cool because then you know everybody is here to see you play. You can really look people in the eye and meet some of them afterwards. Just hang out and stuff like that. You can play what you want to play. So I honestly think that it is unfair to compare them because they are totally separate entities. Fests are amazing for what they are and club shows are amazing for what they are. When we are on tour you can combine them. Play club shows all week and in the weekend some fests, so that makes for a very cool mix.
- I believe it is fair to say that Lionheart is a hard-working band. You guys tour a lot and stuff like that, but is it also fair to say Lionheart is a DIY band?
Yeah I mean the last record came out on Fast Break Records in the States, which is a really small label. They are just some friends of mine which I known for years, one of them is Tony. He is a really nice guy so I offered to help him and he put it out. This is really just a part-time band, everybody does it for fun. It is not a career, it is not a job, it is nothing like that. We write exactly what we want to write and I sing exactly what I want to sing. We are not trying to be anything we are not, no bullshit. We do it just for fun and so yeah, we put it out on a small label because fuck it. It ended up going really well and that is why we are here.
- So do you think Fast Break was the best choice because of the freedom you get as an artist?
Yeah, we just recorded the album, send it in and they’ve put it out. It was just like that. So yeah absolutely. I wouldn’t do it any other way. Just like I said it is not a job, we don’t have any aspirations or anything. We do it for fun. If I can’t play what I want to play then fuck it. I’m not doing that.
- Do you think that Lionheart could become something that you would want to life from?
No. Honestly, we did it like that in the past. It was our job and we toured like nine months out of the year. But I think when you do it like that and you do it as a main source of income, there is no way that you create. It alters the way that you operate. You don’t write a riff because you like the riff, you will write the riff to pay your rent or to pay your cell phone bill. This changes the riff because you are less likely to take risks and to write things you want to write, because you’ve got something to lose. Right now we don’t have anything to lose. When we put out ‘Welcome To The West Coast’ we didn’t had anything to lose. We did whatever we wanted to do with that album. I don’t care if zero people are about the album, or a million people are about the album. It doesn’t change my day to day life. But when you are a band and that is how you pay the rent, you will end up writing the same album over and over. That’s because you are too scared to do something else. For me, I’m doing it for fun. Honestly, it is more enjoyable. It is the love of my life and I love playing music. When I can do it freely and do it for fun, the money is not important.
- It is cool that you can keep it that way. Let’s talk about the album ‘Welcome To The West Coast’. There was a song that popped out lyric-wise. I’m talking about the song ‘Hail Mary’. Are you a religious guy?
Not really [laughs]. It is funny because when you see all the YouTube comments on that song, everybody is like: “Ow fuck religion”, bla bla bla. All this corny shit is really childish. But no, I’m not like a religious guy. Maybe I believe in god, maybe I don’t. I haven’t figured it out yet. But that is not what the song is about. It has nothing to do with that, I just think the imagery is cool. If you really pay attention to the lyrics [sighs]. If Tupac can write a song called “Hail Mary”, I can also write a song called “Hail Mary”. It doesn’t mean that I’m religions. Do I believe in God? Maybe I do believe in God but not necessarily in religion. I believe that there is something out there or maybe I just want it to be, but I just don’t believe in religion.
- Another song I found peculiar was “Rest In Power”. What is it about?
When I was a teenager, one of my best friends died in a car accident. The song is about him, his name is Francis and was 18 years old when it happened.
- I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t know why but by reading the title “Rest In Power”, I’ve gotten the idea it was a patriotic song, about soldiers who fought and now are resting in power.
Oh no, not at all. My brother in law was a soldier though. I’ve had a lot of family who served the army, but this song is just a homage about my friend who passed away.
- Back to the band, you guys are labelled as a hardcore band. I get the feeling that there are more influences than just hardcore in Lionheart’s music. Is this something that comes naturally or is it like a choice that you make?
I think it is both, because I think it is a choice not to limit ourselves. Whenever you are inside of a genre, the only way to stay inside that genre is to follow rules. To be a hardcore band, album after album, you will have to sell your soul and you will have to play by numbers. You’ll have to play exactly this, exactly that way, exactly all the time. It is the same with punk music, same thing for metal, same thing for indie. To be part of a genre, you follow the genre’s rules. I don’t care about the genre at all. I got into music because music in general saved my life. I had a hard time as a kid, but music in general got me true. I loved punk, I loved rap, ska, rock, and it really didn’t make a difference to me. I really enjoy playing hardcore, but if I find a riff that I like or a way of singing that I like, I’m going to do it. If someone doesn’t like what I do, they can just fuck off, I don’t care. Hardcore to me isn’t following that exact set of rules. Hardcore is just being you. The most hardcore person I know in the world is my mom and she doesn’t give a fuck about hardcore music. She is more hardcore than anybody in this building.
- Why do you feel like that? What is hardcore to you that makes your mom hardcore?
Why do I feel like that? Because she worked three jobs and raised two kids by herself. She never tried anything to be that she wasn’t. She taught me about hard work, about not giving up, about being loyal, about loving your family, about protecting your family and about being you at all times. I’ve heard a million bands sing about these same things, I heard them in the lyrics but I’ve seen them in my mom. You know, hardcore is not even music to me, it is a thing that is bigger than that and it should be bigger than that. It is not a breakdown or some hard riffs. I think it kind of sucks that in any genre or subculture, they eventually make their own boundaries and their own rules and with that inclusion comes an exclusion of other people. I think that defeats the initial purpose of that subculture. It is a bummer, honestly. Yeah, that’s hardcore. My mom is way harder than me, for 100%. I could never do the shit that my mom did. I could get a million tattoos all over my body and sing a million fucked up lyrics, but I’ll never be as hard as my mom.
- Wow, that’s one hell of a statement. I do believe that some people lose track on what hardcore is. This is real.
That is real dude, straight up.
- Anyway, if we look at Lionheart as a band for a second. Is there something you would really like to accomplish with the band, any goals or such?
Honestly, it is hard to say because I feel like I’ve already accomplished so much more than I thought I would. Just to meet someone that has my lyrics tattooed on them is incredible. My favourite thing in the entire world, the best thing that ever happened to me, is that when somebody talks to me after a show and they share a story with me of a hardship that they overcame, just because they listened to Lionheart. That is the coolest thing in the world to me. When I started this band I only wanted that to happen one time. Because when I was a kid Blood For Blood saved my life. When I was at my lowest point, the Blood For Blood lyrics got me through that. When I started a band, I was like: “Man, I just want to have that impact on one person, I just want one person to relate to my pain and to feel better about their pain”. Once I got that, I felt pretty good. So, I don’t know. Of course there is stuff that you want to do, play bigger fests and bigger shows and all that. But that is not really a goal, it is a wish. I didn’t ever really thought about that, so it is interesting you ask me that, but I think I’ve actually hit my goals to be honest.
- That is cool. It is very noble of you to think like that.
It is very cool man. It is very humbling to meet someone and that has these things to say to you. After you have somebody cry to you and tell you how much a song means, a festival doesn’t mean anything. I think that I’ve already done what I wanted to do. I’m very grateful. There is more to life than playing music, there is more to life than playing shows or selling merch. It doesn’t matter, because after this everybody goes home and they pay their bills, they go to work, they get in fights with people or have arguments with their girlfriend. This is just such a small part of life, there is more to it. So when you meet somebody and you affect them outside of this life… What more do you want? Anybody can climb on stage and play a big show, play for a bunch of people and not give a fuck. But to affect someone outside of here and to affect a change in a person’s life, I think that is insane. It is mind-blowing. Most people go their entire lives without ever doing that, so that is incredible. It is a very humbling feeling. After that I don’t know what you could possibly want more.
- I can imagine. We’ve come to the end of this interview, so do you have any exciting things happening in the future of Lionheart?
Yeah, very exciting. We are going to put out a full-length album, the first full-length in four years. We are going to put it out in January and we should be back here in February, touring. So I’m very excited about that. It will be very cool.
– Rob Watson