Like A Storm recently released their monster new record Catacombs through Century Media Records. We caught up with Kent Brooks (bass/vocals/keys/programming) to discuss all things Catacombs, touring and which Like A Storm song is the result of throwing all their back catalogue into a blender…
Catacombs has just been released and is absolutely incredible.
Man we put so much into it and then you live with it, you know, and everyone’s posting like ‘hey, where’s the album?’ and fair enough as it has been over a year, but you know it’s there and you’re getting it finished up and then it’s out. It’s really strange, kinda like having a baby that you’ve maybe kept inside for a year and then you’ve suddenly taken it outside and now everyone gets to see and hear it. We’ve got a great team behind us as well, which is what a band needs.
With the record taking so long as well, it meant you had a bit of time off the road to write.
Yeah. We know a lot of bands that wouldn’t have the luxury to spend that amount of time on it and so they would get off the road for 18 months/2 years and just jump into the studio. They’re two different mind-sets. Touring is always like ‘go, go. Where am I now? Where do I have to be in an hour? Where am I going to be tomorrow’ and that kinda thing, but the studio, you really don’t wanna be rushing those songs. You really want to be getting your head around it, living with it and going ‘is this what I’m hearing in my head? Is what I’m hearing through the speakers, the version I’ve got in my head as well?’ We know so many bands that have just rushed it and then go back out touring and you’ve got to think that maybe you weren’t as happy with it as you could have been if you had lived with it for a little bit. It’s kind of a puzzle and some parts of the puzzle come together really quick and other parts it can take you a few months and then you finally see it and you go ‘why didn’t I think of that right back in the beginning?’ If you rush it, it’s kinda like rushing putting a puzzle together, jamming pieces in that don’t necessarily fit.
And then you don’t get the best work if you rush it.
Yeah and that’s the sad reality of touring being the main thing that bands have to do these days. You don’t get that luxury because they used to spend one to two years making a record back in the day. The Metallica records and The Beatles made two records a year and they weren’t touring at all. It’s a process [recording] and now bands are just expected to condense what it took the best in the world six months to do and somehow we’re supposed to do it in like three weeks. So we didn’t want to rush it.
Definitely. You can tell how much time has been spent on it because it’s such a rounded record and it’s gone darker and a lot heavier as well. You seem to be progressing with each record getting heavier but Catacombs seems to be completely rounded, as if you have found exactly where you wanted to go.
Yeah, I think this record is the closest. There’s a sound that we’ve always been chasing and if you went back to some of our early demos, they probably sound a lot like Catacombs. But people from the outside can have different inputs and you do the best with what you can. I’m proud of everything we’ve done but we’ve always had a really clear idea of what we wanted the band to sound like and this is the closest. And it was basically to have it sound a lot heavier with tonnes of riffs and really intricate drumming but still keep the basis of a song because it would be really easy to just make a really heavy album but not anything you would go away remembering or want to sing or listen to again. First and foremost, we grew up just appreciating songwriters, songs and melodies and stuff like that and then as we got into our early teens, we started discovering bands like Korn, Sepultura and Metallica and then you start falling in love with really heavy riffs and so we’ve always wanted to combine those two things in a way that worked.
It definitely worked. The record debuted at number 1 on the New Zealand heatseekers chart and I believe number 3 on the US one.
It was number 4 on the US heatseeker’s chart and then I just found out today that it was number 99 on the US top 100, which firstly, is just infested with pop, hip-hop and EDM because that’s the state of music these days, you know, it’s not a great time for rock music unfortunately. The top 100 also has whatever records are selling the most that week. So it’s like The Black album by Metallica and Queen’s Greatest Hits and Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park. So the fact that you look at ‘what were the greatest selling records of that week and also, what were all the top Panic! At The Disco’s and Justin Bieber’s’ and the fact we even got a look inn is nuts! There’s like a population of 330 million people so that was awesome! I think there were like 8 rock bands on there and the other ones are all the kings like Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, Godsmack, Nine Inch Nails, so we’re really stoked.
That’s insane! And to get on the main chart is incredible!
Yeah and you don’t expect it so to see your name as the very first band in some charts or in the top 100 albums that anyone ever bought in the US, you just don’t expect to see that when you’re in a band. Good rock music is always timeless and that’s what we wanted to do on the record. I don’t want to be presumptuous as to say we made a timeless record at all, because that’s not for me to say and that’s not what we were trying to do so much. We wanted to feel like it was the best record we could make. It was the coolest riffs, it sounded the best we could do with the melodies. You hope your music is gonna transcend what’s popular and then you’ll be one of those Pink Floyd or Guns ‘n’ Roses or Queen or The Beatles records that people are still discovering because it’s just inherently awesome music.
I’m sure it will be. The idea for the overall record came from a trip to the Catacombs in Paris?
Yeah it was. We were on tour with Tremonti and we had a day off in Paris and people were telling us you’ve gotta check out the catacombs. We did and firstly, it wasn’t where I expected it to be. I don’t know where I expected it to be but there was just everyday Parisian life up on the streets with sidewalk cafes, people out on the street drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and then you go through this tomb tour and go five stories down and then there’s the remains, the burial of 6 million deceased and decaying corpses. That really hit me as a metaphor for the way in which we’re taught to live our life by keeping a brave face and a stiff upper lip and like everything is okay on the surface and any negativity or negative thoughts or actions you have, you’re taught to bury them. Which is exactly what they’d done. That was a concept that we kinda wanted to explore lyrically with the record. A lot of songs like The Devil Inside, Complicated (Stitches and Scars), Solitary, Until The Day I Die and Catacombs of course, they kind of deal with that. It was quite an introspective record lyrically for us.
The lyrics did seem to go deeper.
Yeah it’s weird for us. When you’re in a band, you’re sort of spilling your guts out and it’s quite a vulnerable position to be in. I don’t know that when we first started, we were necessarily that comfortable with that. But we realised with songs like Love The Way You Hate Me or Nothing Remains that the more honest we got, the more other people connected with it. I think that’s because the more you cut to the core, we’re all the same. We’re all going to be going through something, for example, adversity and yours may be different to mine but we’re all going through a struggle and people relate. So we saw that and it showed us that it was okay to kinda be yourself a bit more.
Each song on Catacombs are going to translate amazingly live, are there any that you’re particularly looking forward to playing?
I agree with you, I told the guys that I pretty much just want to go out there and play the record top to bottom and then come back for an encore and do all the other songs that people know. When we wrote the record, we noticed that whenever we’re going to tour, we go ‘okay so what are we going to play in our setlist?’ We always gravitated towards the heaviest, the most energetic, the most upbeat because that’s the most fun stuff to play live. So with this record, we were kinda writing it with that mindset, not in a pre-meditated mindset but I think we were all just leaning towards anything that was really heavy or energetic. We started playing Pure Evil which is awesome live. We even start the set with it, nobody ever expects you’re going to start the set with a six minute opus. We’ve started adding The Devil Inside. Complicated (Stitches and Scars) is going to be a fun one. These Are The Bridges You Burned Down is going to be a fun one. Even as we were writing it (the record) we were like “yeah this one’s going to be awesome live”.
Nice. You’ve done acoustic versions of some of your older stuff, do you think you would plan on doing any from Catacombs acoustic? (fan question from Amy Galford)
Yeah I think so. The way we approach doing acoustic versions is we completely rework the instrumentations and even change the keys sometimes. So the song is sort of redone in a whole new way. So that way you can take something like The Devil Inside or Pure Evil and do an acoustic version of it. If we were to just like unplug the electric guitar and plug in an electric acoustic guitar and try to play the same thing, it wouldn’t translate at all. Once you start approaching it as like ‘okay this is the core of the song’ sometimes you can imagine it in a different way and it has it take on a whole different meaning. Sometimes you can take a heavy song and it’s just as powerful on the acoustic guitar because it’s just the way the melody moves against the chords and then the lyrics almost resonate more because they’re made a lot clearer. We love doing acoustic stuff so when the tie is right we definitely will but right now we’re pretty focused on getting back out there because we haven’t toured since, well we went to Australia with Alter Bridge, but other than that we haven’t toured since 2016 so we’re trying to blow the cobwebs off and get back out there.
Speaking of touring, you’re heading out with Godsmack and Shinedown across America soon. So you’re itching to get out there?
Yeah we’re so excited. We’re actually flying in a few days to Wisconsin and we’re doing a big festival there called Rock USA. Then the next thing is the tour with Godsmack and Shinedown and it’s going to be awesome. We’ve played with both of those bands before and we know both of those bands really well. It’s all massive venues so we’re so stoked they invited us because we couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to come back and start touring really.
I bet. You’ve also got the UK and Europe with Godsmack in October and November time too.
Yeah that just got announced which is awesome. We love it over there. We were hellbent on getting over there and now I think this will be our sixth trip across to the UK and Europe and we just love it. We’re really looking forward to it.
Is there a possibility of any headline shows over here?
We will. I know a lot of people have been asking for it and it’s just a matter of lining stuff up. It’s the same with the US headlining stuff. We took a long time to make this record and then we have every intention to spend a long time touring it. Not just Europe and the UK and the US but Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada. We’ll definitely be doing some headline touring in the UK and Europe.
And that’s when you can do your double sets!
I’ll let Chris and Matt know!
What was the most challenging song for you to record and also to play live? (fan question from Laura O’Connell)
Pure Evil took a minute to learn live because when a song is six minutes long, there’s a lot of twists and turns and if one of you is absentmindedly thinking about something else or thinking it goes to some other part then it can fall apart pretty quickly! I was talking with Myles (Kennedy. Alter Bridge/Slash) backstage about it and he was asking me how it was going and I said about how there was so much to learn and he was like ‘oh yeah man, those songs, you’re basically learning three songs in one’ and it is. It’s exactly what it’s like. It’s not tricky but it’s kind of labour intensive. It’s like having to memorise an entire story or something. There’s actually quite a lot of tricky stuff on the new record, particularly when you record the guitars and bass and then you record the vocals over the top and then you go “damn, now I’ve got to do that at the same time!” I learnt this trick from Sting when I read this interview with him years ago. You just slow it right down and then learn it and once you’ve got it, you can speed it back up. So you can always figure out how to do it but then any band goes through that you know. You write the coolest stuff you can and you track it and then once you’ve got a bit of music, you write some stuff over the top and it sounds cool so you’re really happy with it and then you go “aw crap, now I’ve got to do this six nights a week”
I bet and especially with the new record being so layered, it’s going to be interesting live.
Yeah well when we were writing it, we had the mindset of playing it live so it’ll be good but it’s definitely not four chord rock.
We always end with some random questions. If an alien came down to Earth because it heard Like A Storm were amazing, what song would you give to prove that point?
Oh man that’s a hard question! I think Pure Evil because it encapsulates the best of what we do when we break it down and do the mellow stuff but also the best of what we do when we do the heavier stuff and its still got a really good chorus that people can sing along with, which has always been really important to us to have a really big chorus. Yeah so that one on its own could be the sum of if you throw every Like A Storm song ever written into a blender, it might be more or less what you get.
What was the first record you remember buying?
Bad by Michael Jackson.
Nice that’s a good record. Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m a good cook. I’m good with kids, kids seem to like me for some reason and I love playing basketball.
Like A Storm live in the UK and Europe as support for Godsmack;
29 – Stockholm, Sweden – Fryshuset
30 – Oslo, Norway – Rockefeller
1 – København V, Denmark – The Grey Hall
2 – Hamburg, Germany – Docks19
4 – Birmingham, UK – Institute
5 – Manchester, UK – Ritz
7 – London, UK – Forum
8 – Antwerp, Belgium – Trix
10 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Melkweg
11 – Berlin, Germany – Huxleys
12 – Cologne, Germany – Live Music Hall
14 – Zürich, Switzerland – Komplex
16 – Barcelona, Spain – Razzmatazz 2
18 – Milan, Italy – Magazzini Generalli
19 – Munich, Germany – Tonhalle
20 – Vienna, Austria – Arena
22 – Warsaw, Poland – Progresja
24 – I.Került, Hungary – Barba Negra Music Club
26 – Bucharest, Romania – Arenele Romane
27 – Sofia, Bulgaria – Arena Armeec