INTERVIEW: Chris Brooks of Like a Storm

Three years after the release of its second full-length album “Awaken the Fire”—which spawned the hit singles “Love the Way You Hate Me,” “Wish You Hell” and “Become the Enemy”—Like a Storm has returned with record number three, “Catacombs” (released June 22, 2018, via Red Music). The band originally from Auckland, New Zealand—featuring brothers Chris, Matt and Kent Brooks, plus drummer Zach Wood—has come back heavier this time, though the signature elements of the Like a Storm sound, including the didgeridoo, are still in place. On the afternoon of the release day, Live Metal’s Greg Maki caught up with Chris Brooks to discuss “Catacombs,” the upcoming summer tour with Godsmack and Shinedown, and more.

Chris Brooks of Like a Storm

LIVE METAL: It’s a pretty big day for you, the release day for “Catacombs.” It’s the culmination of a lot of work, so it’s gotta be nice for it to finally be here.

CHRIS BROOKS: Yeah, it is, man. I think this album, more than any other we did, we really wanted to separate ourselves and isolate ourselves from everything else that was going on in order to kinda dig deeper lyrically and dig deeper musically. So that kinda means that you go the whole writing and recording process not hearing anything from anyone else, and the day that it’s released, all of a sudden you get all this validation. It’s like, aw, man, we should just release it every day. (laughs)

After you get done with press and other obligations you have, are you going to do anything special to mark the occasion?

I’m sure I will, man. I don’t know what that’ll be yet, but Matt and I are in Vegas, so we’ll definitely go out, have some drinks, have some dinner and that kind of thing. So yeah, just the satisfaction of it coming out is incredible for us. We had this competition for everyone who pre-ordered the album. One of them would win a trip out to Vegas, where we made the album. So someone won that last week, and we kinda drove around the Strip for about three hours, drinking champagne, drinking beer and listening to the album. So that was definitely a great moment in terms of reflecting on what we’ve accomplished and celebrating the release.

As you said, digging deeper lyrically and musically, so can you kind of take me through the process of the writing and recording of this album? Did you do anything differently this time?

It was an interesting process. In a lot of ways, we wanted to do things differently, and in a lot of ways, it was really important to keep certain things the same. I think having had “Awaken the Fire” grow from an EP that we had made ourselves, just recording it ourselves, producing it ourselves, kind of not worrying about was it ever going to get played on the radio, was anybody gonna like it—it was very organic just for us and our fans. I think the success of that, and “Love the Way You Hate Me” in particular, was really liberating.

We recorded that in hotel rooms. We found, for us, it was such a great way to see our musical vision, such a great way to not be worried about what would people think of it, to not be worried about how would people react to it, which I think as an artist is just so freeing—never having those doubts in the back of your mind. So this time around, it was really important that we continue that vibe.

723734We started entertaining the idea of working with different people to produce this album, but we kind of realized we had such a strong vision for this one, in order for it to meet what we were trying to do with it, live up to our goals for the album, that we would need to produce it again, which is a ton of work. I don’t we are necessarily that excited by the reality in terms of work hours and what was involved, but we are definitely excited in terms of the artistry of it.

From that point on, we were still touring “Awaken the Fire” a lot, especially in these markets where it hadn’t come out as early as it did in the U.S. So we were trying to write what grew into “Catacombs,” and then we found six months into that process—we had toured Europe again, we had toured Australia and New Zealand; we were touring as much as we ever had. So there was six months in there of trying to balance that touring and recording just as we had done on “Awaken the Fire.” But after that, we really realized that if we were going to see through this vision, if we were gonna have the album meet the expectations that we had artistically, we would have to stop that touring and, as I said, really separate ourselves from everything, get rid of every single distraction that was going on and really dig deep.

It seems like Vegas wouldn’t be the first place you would think of to get away from the distractions, but I guess it worked for you.

That’s what people think. The funny thing is Vegas operates on two levels. There’s the Strip, which is always crazy, which is always tourists coming in and out, and there’s a lot of that noise, which for us is a lot like touring. But you get outside that and it’s a desert town. And the desert, for us, is obviously a perfect place to be separated from everything.

The second half of the last album we made in a cabin, a lakehouse in Michigan, and that was kind of a perfect way for us. Once we realized we could make these album-quality recordings in hotel rooms, we thought well, if we don’t have to go into a studio, we don’t want to do it. We don’t want to be, well, it’s 8 o’clock now, or it’s 10 o’clock, and watching the clock the whole time, thinking about the money that every minute costs you. For us, that kind of can’t help but impact the creative process.

So we wanted to do it somewhere where you could record 24/7 if you wanted to. So we moved that to a lakehouse, and that was one of the things we wanted to keep consistent on this album, because it had worked well for us. But one of the things we wanted to change was when you’re in Michigan and it starts getting cold, it gets really cold. So this album, we were like, OK, let’s do it somewhere warm. So we picked Vegas.

ROTR18_LikeAStorm_8

The album overall has a heavier sound than we’re used to hearing from Like a Storm. What led to that?

I think a lot of the touring we’ve done. For us, as a band, we really grow as we’re touring, and that connection to heavier music really just progresses the more we tour. I think playing those heavy songs live is just such an incredible feeling—that moment, that connection, that energy with the audience. So I think we were largely inspired by that.

When we went into this album, we knew we wanted to make it an album that every single song we’d want to play live. Every single song would just go down so well live every single night. So there was a lot of wanting to have that energy on this record, and it ended up being a heavier direction. Musically, obviously, the more you play, the more you tour, the more you just get the chance to tour with incredible bands, you want to develop, you want to push yourself.

I think, for us, that heavy music always has that technical side to it, and the contrast with those sort of hypnotic rhythms—that really appealed to us as players as we were grinding and developing.

Then I think the lyrical content just stemmed from addressing different things that had been going on for the last few years that we hadn’t had to face, we hadn’t had to acknowledge while we were touring, because touring is a daily cycle that repeats over and over for two years where you’re very much living in the here and now. You’re very much living for that show, and you don’t have to really go any deeper inside yourself.

Some of these songs on here, I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing, like “These Are the Bridges You Burned Down.” That is just so heavy. And those vocals—where did those vocals come from?

Yeah. The funny thing is we’ve always had screaming in our music, since our very first demos we did that people hopefully will never ever hear. The first album, “Chemical Infatuation” has screaming on it. That’s always been something we’ve always loved in heavy music. This album, as I said, we were really influenced by that live energy. We wanted to push the idea—Matt and I both sing lead vocals, but we wanted to push that even further. So a lot of the songs on this record, I will sing a line, Matt will scream a line. A lot of Kent screaming in there with Matt, too, and some songs, like “Bridges,” I’m screaming in there, as well.

But we really wanted to the push the dynamics of what we could do vocally, I think, the same way that—I don’t know—when you play guitar, you don’t just want to have a clean sound for every song, you don’t just want to have distortion through the whole way for every song. You want to have that contrast we’ve had with programming, with drums. Sometimes it’s loud, sometimes it’s quiet, sometimes it’s intense, sometimes it’s calming. I think, for us, that really creates whatever emotions we’re trying to portray.

In terms of “Bridges” specifically, we knew we wanted to have a song that absolutely threw down live. We wanted to have a song that would just be insane—that energy with us and the audience. That song came together really, really quickly, probably one of the fastest songs. I was just playing guitar, and I just came up with riff and then came up with that lyric over top of it, and it just grew from there. That song is really primal, the kind of interplay between everything.

On this record, we just weren’t afraid to do anything. We have the song that is super heavy and probably is somewhat of a surprise for our fans, but we figured that our fans have supported us and grown with us through everything we’ve done—through putting didgeridoo on the record, through songs that Matt sings and through songs that I sing, through “Gangsta’s Paradise” covers. We’re lucky we have fans with a lot of musical depth in them, as well, so why not?

The first song on the album and the first single is “The Devil Inside.” Both of those are important for sort of introducing the album, so why did you choose that song for those two spots?

I think musically and thematically, it really sets the tone of what the album is about. Matt came up with that guitar riff, and then the interplay between that guitar riff and the didge is just so cool—the trading off of these two instruments that were created thousands of years apart. We thought that was such a cool statement to open the record. I think lyrically, in a lot of ways that speaks to the concept of the album, which is that we have these things inside of us, these things that we try and distract ourselves from, these things we’re not proud of, these things that we try and repress, and we try and carry on ignoring them. But they build up, and if we don’t confront them, then they consume us. They end up controlling us. So that song is about battling your demons, confronting those things inside you. Really, that’s the only way you can triumph over them.

I was reading that the album title “Catacombs” was inspired by a trip to the catacombs in Paris. Why did that make such a big impact on you?

I think it kind of perfectly summed up this idea. Having toured for three years, having been in that world where there are a lot of distractions, kind of moving past, moving outside all those distractions, finding all this stuff that you had buried deep inside yourself. So to go to Paris, see this beautiful city—it was a summer day—and then you climb down through this narrowing corridor that goes down hundreds of feet under the surface of the city and just be met with millions and millions of skeletons. It just an insane moment and such a powerful site to witness, and then have that with this idea that the problems these people had—the cemeteries were overrun, and they still had millions of skeletons. What do they do? They bury them under the city. Such a powerful metaphor for what we all do. And yeah, hundreds of years later, a lot of the buildings in the city might not be there, but everything they’ve buried is still there. It never goes away. That just really spoke to us in terms of symbolizing the concept of the record.

Last year, I was in Rome, and I did a crypts and catacombs tour while I was there. I don’t think it’s as big as what you’re talking about in Paris, but it was really wild to see that and to see how the monks had used bones and skeletons to create these works of art. It was really something to see.

Yeah, that whole thing was really interesting to me, too, when it came to the album, because it was this idea that you have these things, and if you address them, you can find peace with it, you can find tranquility, you can find triumph with it. Everyone else just sort of buried them down. These people who were willing to confront it were able to turn them into these works of art and really memorialize what was going on. That part of it really spoke to me.

LikeAStormDidge

You mentioned the didgeridoo. Is it a challenge to work that into the songs, or have you been doing it enough that it just comes naturally?

No, I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge, mostly because all credit goes to the instrument and the Aboriginals who created it. It’s such a unique, such a hypnotic instrument. I am just always hypnotized, always drawn to the sound of the didgeridoo. Once we started putting it in our music, prior to that I’d always appreciated the instrument on itself, but what I didn’t appreciate until we did it is how well it fits with heavy guitars, how well it fits with heavy drums. The interplay that you can create within the didgeridoo and these other elements of heavy music is just so unique.

Next month, you are heading out on tour with Godsmack and Shinedown, playing a lot of big shows. I’m sure you’re looking forward to that.

(laughs) Absolutely, dude. I can’t wait. It’s such an incredible tour to be kicking off this album cycle for us. Two incredible bands, playing amphitheaters all over the country, and doing it in summer (laughs)—even better. Those summer tours always have such a great vibe to them. Everybody’s having fun, everybody’s drinking, and to get to play a lot of this music in that sort of environment with bands that we really get on well with, you can’t ask for anything better than that.

When you’re out on tour with bands that have big productions, are you watching them closely and taking notes on what they’re doing and seeing if there are things you can apply to your own shows?

Oh man, always. We have been so fortunate to get to tour with incredible artists, incredible musicians, songwriters, incredible visionaries when it comes to stage set and all this kind of thing. So I think we’re always inspired by the bands that we tour with. To get to see that up close every night, it does hit us. We’re always wanting to grow and develop, too, so I think to see that is always incredible. To get to witness all these icons from side of stage every single night—it’s powerful.

ROTR18_LikeAStorm_21As we said, the album came out today, so you’re just at the beginning of what I guess will be a long cycle. So what else can we expect from Like a Storm in the months and years ahead?

(laughs) On this album, a lot of touring. We’re starting with this one—the Godsmack/Shinedown summer tour. And then we’ll be doing a lot of headline stuff, a lot of touring overseas in Europe, U.K., New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Asia—a lot of awesome markets we haven’t been to yet. So that’s, I think, really exciting for us as a band. Obviously, to get to travel the world and play music is truly a blessing and something that we’re so grateful to get to do. So I think, obviously, continue to do that, man. Continue to grow and reflect on where we are and what we’re doing and how that affects us.

Is there anything else you’d like to say right now?

Thank you very much. We’re really excited for everyone to hear it. This album we truly couldn’t have done without all the support we’ve got from our fans, so I want to thank them, too. They’ve been such a huge part of our journey and a huge part of Like a Storm.

LINKS:
www.likeastorm.com
www.facebook.com/likeastorm
www.twitter.com/likeastorm
www.instagram.com/likeastorm
Like a Storm YouTube channel

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