Mathew McNerney (vocals) & Juho Vanhanen (guitar)
Paris – Le Point Ephémère – Wednesday November 1st, 2017
“It’s a great festival to go to. You don’t feel like : I don’t belong here” (Mathew McNerney)
How has the tour been so far?
Mathew: It’s good. It’s been really…. I feel like we’ve been really driven, this tour. Like on fire, full of excitement. We’re really stoked about the feeling around the new line-up. I think that’s come through into the live shows.
Juho: For sure, you could still have the feeling of a very fresh line-up and I think that now some things are really starting to look great like, energy-wise on the stage, playing wise and all that so. Basically things are starting to be set on fire.
Was it important for you to start the promotion of the new album (Motherblood) with a headlining tour?
Mathew: Don’t know, really… It’s just the way it worked out this time. I’m not sure that it was really important. I think that at the moment for us, it’s more important that we get out and show what we’re about. We play the new songs, show the new line-up, stuffs like that. We’re happy that we’re playing festivals now where there will be a lot of bigger bands like at Damnation festival. That’s gonna be great for us as well. Both things (club shows and festivals) work but it’s nice to have a headliner show because you get to see your fans, like the people who really care and wanna see you.
Juho: Yeah. And at the same time, you really wanna do also at some point a tour where you can show your tit to people who haven’t seen you before. Both are fine in that case.
The reviews regarding Motherblood are all very good. Were you expecting such a critical acclaim?
Juho: This is something I don’t think so much about until the album is out. Then you’re hitting the reality. Obviously someone is going to review this at some point and we try to do our work as mush good as we can and catch as much fire as we want to. We try to capture that as much as we can and it’s obviously very nice if people have understood what we were after and wanted to deliver. It’s just about delivering something that you wanted to deliver. And then, it’s not up to us after that.
Mathew: We were kind of like the underdogs on this record as well. I didn’t really feel like we… It’s just that it was entirely our thing and us doing this record like we really wanted to do. And I felt that after the last record (Dreamcrash, 2015) things sort of both sides of the fence – internally and externally in the band, had been fractured. With this record, it was kind of like “really don’t give a fuck! Let’s just do it for us”! It was a record that really felt like something that we wanted to do. We talked about it and really wanted to collaborate with Juho on doing music. So that’s kind of how we felt and we just did it. Before the record came out, I was thinking that maybe the reviews will be very harsh, that people won’t get it, won’t like it. But I was also thinking: “but I really don’t care” because I was so happy with the record. That’s a good sign when you feel confident about it.
In a way, could Motherlove be considered as Grave Pleasures’ first album in a way? I mean, Climax (2013) was a proper Beastmilk album and Dreamcrash (2015) was an album from a hybrid creature: Beastmilk becoming Grave Pleasures…
Mathew: Yeah, it feels a bit like that. Like a restart but that’s what we thought about as well a little bit. Maybe on my side a bit more, because it was sort of going back to what it was like I was thinking when I started doing this project. What is it that we want to get out of this rather than thinking about the legacy of the band. When we talked about what our influences were, the primal feeling behind how Beastmilk started, similar to the way this band is coming together. It’s how a real band should do a record. We shouldn’t be worried about recreating the past or living I, someone else’s shoes. I think that this record really stands on its own. I guess it has some things that you can trace back to the Beastmilk thing but I think of that much more in terms of shared inspiration. That’s like we’re drawing from the same wells that we were drawing from for Beastmilk. But it’s a very different record. That’s where the similarity ends I think, for me because it’s very fresh, very new.
Juho: I think that Dreamcrash was like a more romantic album than the Beatmilk (Climax) album. It was definitely something that I wanted to try and incorporate into the songs that colourful kind of romantic drive into the songs rather than just have the total darkness to it. As a result, we have kind of a catchy and danceful album with lots of colours going on in it, different vibes
Mathew: We had a lot of hunger in it in a way, like a lot of energy around this record that was kind of missing with the last one. Loads of things were deflating. The kind of feeling around the band really comes through in a record because artists are just mirrors of their emotions, you know. So the Dreamcrash album became a very dark, a bit of a downer record. Motherblood has much more of a punk rock feeling. We were kind of “OK, everybody has his own opinions about us and we’re gonna do what we want”. Like “fuck everyone else” And I really like that when I hear the record and when we play live: it’s real, there’s a “fuck you” spirit about it.
Despite the dark lyrics, I think that the album is rather uplifting. Do you feel the same way?
Mathew: Yeah! Because I think that the fun is back, you know. A bit of tongue in cheek, a little swagger, a smile: all of those things that we were missing on the last record and that we have again. It’s all about shared emotions. I think that the story of that band is an English guy singing with a bunch of Finnish guys: that’s how it works. With the last record, it was a couple of Swedish people involved and it became kind of an international band… That just didn’t work, you know. That’s what people are picking up know: the band is back at the way it should be working.
Juho: There’s a lot of darkness in Mat’s lyrics and themes and it fits totally. But like you said, it’s uplifting. For me, it’s about some acceptance of dark shit going on but you can enjoy and feel uplifted. There’s some dark shit around the corner, but so what? Let’s party!
Mathew: I remember me and Juho having a conversation when there was a line-up change. Both of us wanted to write music together and it’s like a missed opportunity if you don’t do that. We’ve been through this dark shit and now we don’t have anything to lose. This record is a “nothing to lose” record. And I think that’s uplifting to people who hear musicians who say “we don’t care – we hae nothing to lose – we give everything”.
The album is only 37 mins long. A short format is something you targeted from the beginning?
Mathew: I love short records. I think it’s very punk. All the best punk albums are short.
Juho: Especially if it’s full of bangers. It’s also nice to have it short because you can put it on again.
I’ve got the digipack version of Motherblood which contains an extra track: “There Are Powers At Work In This World”. Why didn’t that song make the cut in the end?
Mathew: I think because of the kind of format of the record, you know. You want a record to be an experience and it just didn’t with a few more tracks. We could just keep adding and adding but at some point you have to think about the listening experience and we did concentrate on that a lot. It was something we really wanted to focus on, to have a record with kind of a perfect beginning and a perfect ending.
Juho: That track was on the track order until the final minutes. But at some point, you have to kind of think about what is good and right for the album drama curve and think “this is a good song but if we leave it out, the drama curve will be kind of complete. And so sometimes, you have to kill your darlings. But I really like this song.
Mathew: I really enjoy that as an artist: really like just cutting off some of your work so that the minimalism of things becomes more important. I guess it’s tempting when you’re making music to keep adding. A lot of people do that and it becomes… A cake might be really tasty but if you eat a lot of it, it’s gonna make you sick, you known. “There Are Powers…” came as an extra track anyway. Labels love to have these extra things: it’s out there anyway. We have a lot of other songs that didn’t make the album. I really like that as well because I think to myself that you have to prove to yourself that you’re still gonna be able to write songs because if you release everything that you have at one moment I think you would feel like “OK, I’m done, I haven’t any more songs”.
Juho: It’s also a good practice for your ego. To kind of really try and think as a listener of the album. As an artist, it’s always a good challenge to be able to step outside your bubble.
To me, this album is very solid. Will all the songs be given live treatment?
Mathew: I think so. I can’t see any of those tracks not being live tracks, us not playing them. And the reaction to the album has been so strong that we’re finding now on this album that people are enjoying the new songs the most so it’s really nice for us. It gives us extra confidence to think about putting them all in.
The Apocalypse is a theme was you seem to be very fascinated by. What does explain this fascination for the Apocalypse?
Mathew: I was thinking about going to Le Père Lachaise today and I was reading this quote by Jim Morrison and he said something like “If you face your deepest fear, you’re not afraid anymore, you totally free”. It’s like the feeling of freedom when you face the things the thing you fear the most: you can confront it and deal with it and then you’re totally free. That’s to me kind of what rock n’roll is: pure freedom. It’s like that feeling of escapism to the point where you suddenly realise: “I can do what I want – I have this one life and I want to live it now – to live it in the moment”. All the great rock n’roll is about death and destruction, sex and violence, love and romance. It’s all these extremes that take you to that point which is like… To let you know that you’re alive and free. I think that the usage of the apocalypse is like a great archetype, a very iconic way of facing your greatest fear. Somehow, if we were more conscious about it, we might do something about it and change things.
Here’san odd question. Everything is always very meticulously done within Grave Pleasures. So I guess that the use of two very different types of fonts to create the new logo was a real will?
Mathew (laughter) : I’ve been a graphic designer for a very long time now. I worked for some big companies doing that stuff and everything. So I know and I’m trained and educated as a graphic designer. And so I know it’s some kind of a faux-pas but that’s the point of it. To fuck with that rule. Why is there a rule that you have to have one font together? Why do people obey that rule? When you’re in a punk band, you don’t give a fuck. I think it’s cool because it’s a reflexion of what the band means. Two different things: the dark and the light. I really enjoy to see people getting pissed off because it doesn’t look like correct. It’s really funny. It’s wrong but it’s right, you know? That’s what the band is about. There’s a lot of that “in your face” stuff.
You have the privilege to be signed on a solid label. Do you think that for most bands the future could rely on crowdfunding?
Mathew: No… I mean, I’ve tried it with my other band and it works in certain ways. It’s also… I think that a massive portion of what we’re doing anyway is crowdfunding. We’re relying on the crowd, people who buy our merch so that we can stay on the road… No band can survive on fees. Every band survives on their fans. I guess everything is crowdfunding in a way. Basically how you present it. I feel that sometimes crowdfunding works if they’re giving the fans something… We were gonna do it around this album and it just didn’t come together. We were struggling to make sure the fans got something out of it, something more than “give us some money and we’ll give you a t-shirt”, you know? Because you can go to a show and buy the t-shirt. I think there should be some real value for the fans.
You will be back at Hellfest in June. Any memories of playing there in the past?
Juho: I’ve been playing there once with Grave Pleasures when I was still a session member. And then I also played there with my other band Oranssi Pazuzu.
Mathew: The last one was very good actually, with Grave Pleasures. A really cool crowd reaction. We played new songs and some people were loving it. French people get the band a lot more that on other regions. We did very well in France with the last album. I think the Hellfest performance for us was one of those points where it opened up a lot of things for us in France. People saw us there and got it. Maybe it worked in the context of so many styles of bands. So much heavy music and we came on and added something different. The show was really good for us.
Juho: That’s the really good side of Hellfest: it’s a big festival but you still have a pretty big take on a lot of different metal-orientated genres and sub-genres. I couldn’t imagine Hellfest having Jessica93 playing there for example. It’s a pretty open-minded festival in that sense. I think for that reason it worked really well for Grave Pleasures.
Mathew: It’s a great festival to go to. You don’t feel like “I don’t belong here”.
Juho: You don’t have to watch the headliner bands. It’s like everybody is allowed. That’s why the crowd buys the ticket before the line-up is even announced: if they don’t do like the headliners, they know that every other band is great.
What are you expectations regarding Hellfest 2018?
Mathew: I wanna go there and get really, really smashed in the artists tent (laughter)! They also bring Jägermeister stuff! I always envoy meeting people at Hellfest as well: I made friends through other friends there. It’s like a big meet-up and I always enjoy that.
Juho: Yeah, it’s a fun place to combine giving everything you have on the show and also enjoying yourself at the area. It’s a nice place to hang out.
Mathew: I’m really excited about bringing the new record there. I think there’s gonna be a renewed interest and new fans and stuff. Playing it live to that many people is really exciting for us because I think that we are that kind of band that can scale up: we can play small clubs but also do a bigger show. I don’t think that the stage affects us all: I think it will work good.
Many thanks to Ben (Northern Music)