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INTERVIEW: Neck Of The Woods

Underground News Tuesday, 05 September 2017 13:03

Neck of the Woods have been described as “the most exciting progressive metal band to emerge from Vancouver’s underground music scene in a generation.” If you’ve ever seen them live, you know this is not really an overstatement. I sat down with vocalist Jeff Radomsky and Guitarist Dave Carr on a sunny East Vancouver beach to discuss the band’s upcoming debut full-length.

Absolute Underground: Who are you, and why are we here?

Jeff Radomsky: My name is Jeff and I am the vocalist for Neck of the Woods. We’ve got a new record coming out in September, and it tells a bit of a story that we’re all pretty connected to. It's pretty explicitly personal to myself and to the rest of the band, and we just wanted to talk a little bit about it.

Dave Carr: And I’m Dave. I play guitar.

AU: Can you give us a brief history of the band?

Jeff: It kind of started as an incarnation of Dave’s previous band called Reckoner.

Dave: Yeah, I was playing in Reckoner around Vancouver 10 or so years ago, it feels like… which it may have well been. It kind of fell apart and I still had the riffs and still had the motivation, so I just started looking for new guys. I found Jeff through the old Reckoner singer, and this is his first band, actually. Travis I found on Craigslist and the other guys, just through other bands. And it wasn’t until last year that Jordan and Jeremy joined. That had a huge impact on the band and our songs. It goes back to 2013 or so.

AU: The Passenger is your debut full length. Tell us all about it.

Jeff: This record is pretty deep-seated in my personal life. It deals with a lot of themes based around my family situation. Unfortunately my sister is dealing with brain cancer at the moment and a lot of the songs are focused on that as the centre point, straight down from her diagnosis to one of the songs being written in the waiting room during her craniotomy. The majority of the record’s underlying theme is a message of support from myself and the rest of the band, who are all also personally connected with my sister Sarah, to aid her through it and tell her that she’s going to get past it. It’s a stepping stone and it's only going to make her stronger. That’s kind of the ethos of the record.

Dave: Musically, the album is a bit of a jump ahead from the EP. The EP was the first six songs that we had written. There are nine songs on the new album which really showcase the new members and us all getting better at our instruments. Jeff has this crazy new range that he didn’t have when he first started out ‘cause he had no experience, and now he has lots. Musically, we’re really happy with it. The songs are really cool and we have a lot of fun playing them. It's out on September 15th.

AU: There was a bit of a debacle surrounding the artwork for the album. What happened with that?

Jeff: That was a bit of an unfortunate situation where we as a band picked out the piece by an artist in the states and purchased it, and were told that we had the exclusive rights to this piece. It wasn’t until we had signed a deal with Basick Records over in Europe and had already released the first single that it was brought to our attention that an Australian band had the same record cover. That band was, fortunately, really relaxed and cool about it. They weren’t in any way confrontational which we’re really thankful for, they seem like really good guys. We spoke to them, they produced receipts and emails from the artist saying they had exclusive rights to it dating back to 2014. We have receipts and emails stating that we have exclusive rights to it dating back to 2016. Obviously, they had it first so we decided that we needed to change it. Unfortunately, at that point in time the photographer blocked my emails, stopped accepting contact from Facebook and Instagram. He took our money and ran.

Dave: He ghosted.

Jeff: Which is kind of funny because the cover is a ghost. But it's unfortunate because he was recommended to us as one of the top ten surrealist photographers in the world. When we first bought the piece we were so excited to have something produced by somebody with such merit. But, at the end of the day we were really lucky to get to work with a guy named Kevin Moore at Soft Surrogate. He went above and beyond. Ultimately, we ended up with a cover that we are way happier with and feel represents both The Passenger and the themes of Neck of the Woods much better than the piece we had originally purchased. And we got to do it ourselves. We got to shoot it, be involved in the art direction and make sure that it was exactly what we wanted it to be. Kevin really went above and beyond for us.

Dave: Yeah, and it was crazy… we had the album art done before the album was even recorded. We got the art last September and recorded in December. So we had this finished product that we were sitting on forever ‘cause we were talking with the label for so long. Finally they set a release date, months in advance, and two days later, we find out this is the same as that and you’re right back to ground zero…

Jeff: Square one.

Dave: It felt like ground zero.

Jeff: That was a couple weeks of not sleeping. Creating artwork is one thing, but getting five guys who have drastically different influences to agree on something that we all universally feel represents us is the biggest struggle. So getting to create it ourselves was important and we need to just do that forever.

AU: Why should someone who has never seen Neck of the Woods come to one of your shows?

Dave: I think you guys should come see us because we have a fairly engaging live show. Sometimes at our shows not everybody is moving around and moshing, and that’s cool because you look at them and they’re looking at you and following what’s going on. And the rowdy shows are awesome, don’t get me wrong, but it's cool to see people engaged. We put a lot of passion into our live performance and we just have so much fun doing it. I think people see us having fun. We have a lot of friends who aren’t crazy metalheads who come out to the shows and have a good time, have a couple of beers and watch the entertainment.

Jeff: We’re a pretty diverse band. We’re fortunate enough to have people with such different influences in the band, so we kind of breed a different style of music that is accessible on a bill that is technical metal, metalcore, prog metal, black metal, death metal… we’ve played with bands from A to Z and we’ve never been placed into one genre. We’re a multifaceted band with no one set path so it makes us accessible to a lot of different people. And it seems like when we play live, people are excited to see a band that is happy to be there.

Dave: And Jeff takes his shirt off.

Jeff: I’m always half naked. The blinders go on and I stop paying attention to what’s happening… I get so involved in the live show and it's so encompassing and gripping that you get off stage and it's like, “Did we play? Did it happen? Are we done?”

AU: I can confirm that you all have a passionate, bold and energetic stage presence. Where do you draw your influences from for your live performance?

Jeff: Oh man. When it comes down to thinking about our live performance, I don’t think it's something that any of us really think about. We just kind of get on stage and then you blink and you’re off stage again. Really what it comes down is, it's just five of us who love being around each other and love making music together doing something unique. But Dave and I specifically have always been really inspired and excited when we get to watch bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan or Every Time I Die who just go buck wild. You can tell that that’s their time, that’s their outlet. In everyday life you don’t always have the chance to just have a raw, expressive…its like, “I get to go bat shit crazy right now, and that’s OK.” That’s not something that’s usually OK in your day to day life. That’s such a fantastic outlet and we’re really lucky to have that in our lives.

Dave: It's pretty natural. It's just like, “I have to do this right now. I have to rock out.”

Jeff: You don’t even think about it and then you get off stage and people will be like, “You climbed up a monitor and did a head butt and now you’re bleeding.” And you’re like, “I did?”

Dave: A couple beers help, too.

AU: Jeff, I often see you leaving the stage while performing and getting right into the crowd. I’ve also seen you at other bands’ concerts contributing by singing into the microphone. Is blurring the boundary between performer and audience a conscious goal for you?

Jeff: I don’t know if it's conscious but it's something that always tends to happen. The reason I think it happens is that I think it should be for everybody. Just because I’m the guy on stage with a mic doesn’t mean I should be the only person who gets to express themselves. It feels really, really good to yell and I feel that’s something not everybody really understands. Getting to yell into a microphone with four of my best friends, that just makes me a more mellow person in my day to day life. I think seeing a live performance and getting the chance to do that really levels people out. And when I see bands that I love and admire I can’t help myself. It's not a conscious decision, that’s just what’s happening. You just get that overwhelming emotion that just drives you to get on stage and be a part of it. And again, our live show is not just for us, it's for everybody. We want everyone to be included, and I encourage anybody who ever sees Neck of the Woods live, if you feel like yelling and want to get on stage, just go for it, because it feels good. There’s a reason why we do it, and we want everyone to be able to share that.

AU: In what way is progressive metal similar to skateboarding?

Jeff: That’s an interesting one. I think they are similar because skateboarding is an activity that is focused on the individual. You don’t rely on other people to make something interesting and creative happen, and when it comes down to making progressive metal, any one member can contribute in a way that’s drastically different from the rest of the members. For example Dave is a very competent classical guitar player, whereas the rest of the band is focused on other aspects, so when we all bring it to the table it creates something unique and different. When you skateboard around other people you get really influenced by what’s going on around you. Like, I recognize that if I skateboard by myself, I lump myself into the same habits and I do the same ten things that I can do, but when I skate with other people I get really inspired to change. When you play progressive metal, it’s a genre that doesn’t really know any bounds. You can have a jazz interlude, because you’re playing with somebody who is into that. So I feel like it relates because, with skateboarding, you have a style of expression that isn’t restricted by many boundaries and I feel like progressive metal is the same. That was tough one. Fuck [laughs].

AU: Tell us about your most memorable Neck of the Woods show.

Jeff: For myself, personally, I think we were playing at the Hindenburg two years ago. We hadn’t played in Vancouver in like a year or something like that. It had been some time since we had a chance to go hard in our hometown, and during song one I jumped into the crowd and somebody in the mosh pit accidentally head-butted me. I ended up having to get five stitches in my face. I remember getting hit and then jumping back on stage and I felt like I was totally fine, and I looked over at Dave who mouthed to me “Dude, your face is fucked,” and just realizing that the blood that was all over the ground and all my clothes and my hands was mine. I was looking into the crowd and seeing a bunch of people who looked legitimately concerned for my well-being. Somebody handed me a towel to wipe down my face and we just rocked the rest of the set. That one certainly stood out ‘cause it was like, step one: injury. Step two: just try and finish the show. That was a really exciting day. That was a fun show. What about you Dave?

Dave: Two nights ago was really awesome. We had a really good show in Victoria. Another gig that stands out from a while ago was when we opened Sumer Slaughter in like 2014 in the first year of being a band. Playing with Archspire and The Faceless, Rings of Saturn and all of these pretty crazy, technical bands… we have some of that, but not all of it. People were there to see other bands but we got to play to a pretty decent sized crowd and got a pretty good reaction from everybody. That was pretty cool because we hadn’t been playing that long. I just remember looking at the crowd that night and thinking, “Sweet, this is awesome.”

Jeff: Another one that comes to mind is playing Sled Island recently in Calgary and getting to open for Converge. Converge has been one of my main inspirations when it comes to making music and making art, and all of those spheres merged together. Getting to play for them was amazing but what was more important was that my parents came out to the show. They’d never seen me play before. They’d seen me pursue other avenues of creativity, like pursuing a skateboarding career and a tattoo career, but I think they always though that if they came to a show they would psych me out or something like that. So looking into the crowd and seeing my parents, and seeing Converge, just the guys standing behind their merch booth watching us play, was something that I think I will always remember.

AU: On the song “Nailbiter” off the new album you have a line that says, “Strangers and false friends feed the addiction, caught up in comments and useless opinions.” Am I right in interpreting that as a comment about social media?

Jeff: Oh, absolutely. I feel like social media is, unfortunately, something that as a band you can’t exist without. It's immediate, accessible information to everybody at your fingertips at all times. Being a band without Facebook is damn near impossible right now. It's also bordering impossible to be a band and not be on Spotify because, when you look at the statistics, that’s where everybody is finding their music. At the same time, it's just frustrating. So many people focus on having a carefully choreographed version of their own life and as much as I pretend like I don’t, I play into it just as hard. It’s a tricky cycle to try and break, especially being in a band. You can’t get away from it but it just fucking ruins your life.

AU: What’s coming up for you guys besides the new album?

Jeff: We’re doing a Western Canadian tour, 12 shows, out to Saskatchewan and back. The record comes out on September 15th and in between now and then we’ll have a couple of singles released. We will also be releasing a music video for the track, “You Will Always Look the Same to Me.” And then spring 2018 is branching into the wonderful country of America and seeing how that goes, and hopefully over to Europe and meet the folks at the label and do all that fun stuff.

AU: Fuck yeah. Anything you want to add before we wrap up?

Jeff: I hope people legitimately enjoy listening to our album as much as we enjoy playing it. Getting to perform with this band live is the most fulfilling thing that’s going on in all of our lives. I just hope that it's as engaging and as exciting for everybody else as it is for us.

Dave: Yeah, we’re just really excited for people to hear the new record and we’re really proud of the material on there. It’s one big song. It goes from start to finish.

 

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Last modified on Tuesday, 05 September 2017 14:04
Written by  Stepan Soroka
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