Drown This City interview with Alex Reade – “I never planned to scream!”
Post-hardcore act Drown This City are putting themselves firmly on the map of Australian heavy music. They’ve been turning a lot of heads with a unique sound that mixes electronic and crushing riffs. The five-piece also have the song-writing chops to back it all up.
Frontwoman Alex Reade runs riot on the False Idols EP with a mix of soaring cleans and demonic screams. Talking to SoundReview, Reade explained that, since the band started as an electronic project, she had no intention to scream at first. Obviously that changed and the rest is history. The fans are now flooding in, leading to a packed EP release – her first sold out show. Reade also talks about why ‘fuck the man’ is a good summary of her lyrical direction on False Idols.
Drown This City morphs from electronic project to metalcore monster
Can you tell me how and when the band formed and how you came to be a part of it? Have you had much band experience outside Drown This City?
It started off as a trio for over a year, with myself, our drummer Anthony and our bassist Michael planning world domination through an electronic project. We’ve all been in super heavy projects previously and were seriously considering Skrillex/CHVRCHES-inspired tunes but as we tried to write we weren’t ready to give up the heavy stuff yet, so we went in the opposite direction – I never planned to scream! It developed naturally and we got on a roll, writing behind the scenes for a good year before launching online. We added our guitarist Laurence in to the mix, and finally Matt our second guitarist/vocalist. It all fell in to place perfectly.
Some talented artists aren’t widely heard as they don’t effectively promote themselves. You guys have really successfully put yourself out there and developed a big profile despite being a relatively new band. What’s your secret?
No secret, just hard work, elbow grease and lots of research into the current climate of social media and how to promote yourself. It’s the same as any other small business; you’ve got to work your ass off to promote and get yourself out there by any means necessary or else your product goes to waste. We know we have to effectively do it all ourselves and keep working hard with the mentality of treating it as seriously as possible, nothing is going to land at our feet.
Alex Reade on surviving the sold out False Idols EP launch
Can you tell me a bit about the experience of playing to a sold out show for the False Idols EP launch? Have you ever sold out a gig like that before?
I’ve never played a sold out show, overall it was an intense experience. It was a lot more pressure to deliver as it was our first gig together as Drown This City in its current form. I thought I was going to pass out before getting on stage, but as soon as I was up there it was exhilarating and by far the most enjoyable show I’ve ever played. We worked so hard for so long prior to that, so to sell it out and smash a great gig, it was our first opportunity to stop and go yep, that’s an achievement.
A big part of the Drown This City sound to my ears is the synth and electronic elements. Can you tell me about how that developed? Who plays/programs the synth and electronic parts?
A lot of the electronic influence comes from bassist Michael ironically! He’s an old school raver. As well as heavy music he loves anything with intensity – drum and bass, dub, breakbeat, old school trance. A lot of the songs started as stand-alone erratic synth that we developed into the tracks off False Idols.
Who writes the music in Drown This City and can you tell me a bit about how the writing process works?
We write pretty collaboratively. Always in the studio tracking pre-production as we go. Michael usually has a few chorus, synth, hook ideas tracked in on synth and roughly on guitar as a foundation. Anthony our drummer then comes in and puts his hectic drum flavour over it and we end up rearranging the whole feel and structure of each track. Guitars get rewritten properly and vocals come last when I feel like I have the whole picture of where I want the song to go.
“Fuck the man”: Writing the False Idols EP lyrics
Who writes the lyrics? If it’s you, what inspires your lyrics and what are some of the main themes/ideas you wrote about on False Idols?
I write all my own lyrics, however for our EP False Idols we did collaborate with two other vocalists; Dylan Gillies-Parsons from Deathcore band Gravemind and Dan Faulks who’s a brilliant Melbourne vocalist. So our title track False Idols features some of Dylan’s lyrics, and Empire was co-written with Dan. I love writing my own lyrics and can be quite protective over it, however I completely admire the talent of other vocalists and sometimes collaboration takes a song to the next level that I couldn’t achieve on my own.
Thematically it’s normally ‘fuck the man’ oriented, or ‘fuck the oppressors’ – whoever they are to you. The track False Idols was written about the moment you look to the people who’ve acted as an idol to you; a dictator to who you have to be, and you are able to differentiate between the way they see you and who you really are. I had a really poignant moment growing up when I switched off the connection to who people around me were telling me to be, and I really want to encourage other people to start developing their own belief system and challenging their supposed idols.
How far along has the band progressed to starting the next release? Is the new material you’re writing building directly on the sound you explored with False Idols, or are you moving into a different direction?
We never stop writing. Between everything we are doing we are still writing new songs. There’s never a particular direction we just write what feels and sounds good to us – whatever we are currently inspired by and our token synth’s gonna make an appearance. We keep pushing to be the best we can be as a collective, and when the next opportunity presents itself we are ready.
Why the genre is still kicking: “Post-hardcore will never die”
I grew up listening to post-hardcore and playing in bands and I remember 5-10+ years ago a number of people in the heavy music scene looked down on the genre, saying it’s just a trend; it’s not going to last etc. But it’s still going strong. Why do you think it’s continued to have such an appeal with fans and musicians?
It’s just really addictive. It’s got bounce, intensity and variety. Post-hardcore is a super versatile genre and covers so many different sounds and sub-areas. I’ve actually seen a lot of old school metalcore bands I’ve followed over the years start to change and develop in their later days; incorporating break-downs, posty vocal styles, stripping away the guitar solos… breakdowns and post-hardcore will never die.
What are some of the bands that have inspired you the most as a musician?
Argh this is a tough one as I love so many different bands and artists. I think I’ll have to go back to my roots and say my biggest inspirations to motivate me to even join a band were Heaven Shall Burn, Alexisonfire and Parkway Drive. In my earlier years they got me through the best and worst times. The first time I ever heard screaming was a Heaven Shall Burn song; Voice Of The Voiceless – I lost my mind. And my first heavy show was Parkway Drive at a Community Hall on the Gold Coast. I just thought yeah, I can do that.
Drown This City added to big line-ups
Upcoming Drown This City shows:
September 1: The Irish (Knox O-Zone), Melbourne, with The Beautiful Monument and White Crows.
September 10: Enigma Bar, Adelaide with Down With the Ship and Oceans Wake.
January 14, 2017: Unify Festival, Gippsland with Alexisonfire, I Killed the Prom Queen, House Vs Hurricane and many more.
The Beautiful Monument are another kick-ass female-fronted Melbourne band so that’s definitely gonna be a show to catch. The two-day Unify Festival has an absolutely packed line-up and will be Drown This City’s biggest show yet.