The Big Über Rock Interview: Alestorm Print E-mail
Written by Rich Hobson   
Sunday, 14 May 2017 04:30

As far as the (widely eclectic) folk metal genre goes, Europe has an almost complete cornering of the market, the Scandinavian region in particular holding the crown with the likes of Turisas, Ensiferum and Korpiklaani. A short hop across the North Sea (and a quick trip in-land) though and you’ll find undoubtedly our nation’s greatest folk inspired band, Alestorm.


Pioneers of the widely successful pirate metal subgenre, Alestorm are something of a phenomenon in the metal world, playing up the genre’s most ridiculous and theatrical elements to brilliant effect. Catching up to the band ahead of their headline set at Hammerfest IX, Über Rock got the opportunity to talk to the band about what it means to play two of the biggest festivals on the rock circuit in one year, why you won’t see them dressing up in pirate garb any time soon and what to expect of their new album…


NGBTS Group 1 - Landscape


You guys are currently gearing up for the release of a new album: what’s happening with that?


Elliot Vernon (keyboards/backing vocals): It’ll be out May 26th and is called ‘No Grave But The Sea’. Then, two weeks later we’ll be playing at Download Festival - hopefully people will come watch us play!


So, what can you tell us about the album?


Christopher Bowes (vocals/keytar): It’s very good.


Gareth Murdock (bass): It’s rather good?


Elliot: It is…


Christopher: It’s very focused, we got rid of all the rubbish stuff and every song is good.


Elliot: There’s no filler any more. We used to write some good songs and then think “we need three more songs to fill out the album”.


Gareth: This time it’s ten dreadfully good songs.


Elliot: We actually took our time, we started writing it a year and a half ago, which is unusual for us. We actually finished it months ago too, which is different – we’re usually in a rush.


Gareth: We actually demoed everything.


Elliot: We spent four months just listening to the demos, looking at anything that could need changing. We’ve never done that before. Usually, we write some songs roughly, then go to the studio and make them into real songs.


Christopher: Everything was calculated.


K800 NGBTS Individual - Christopher


Gareth: That’s why everything was so quick too, I think, because we knew what to do.


Elliot: It made the recording process so much better, we decided to be more responsible and it really paid off.


What were your biggest inspirations going into this album?


Elliot: I don’t know what inspires us anymore!


Christopher: Whatever we did on previous albums that was good, we followed that thread. That was just it, really.


Should we be expecting any more mental covers a la ‘Lazy Town’ or Taio Cruz?


Elliot: No covers! This is the first time we’ve ever not covered anything. Everything is original. We’re just very conscious of what has made us good in the past and kept going with that.


Gareth: There’s some more advanced stuff on this album, especially with the keyboards and guitar.


Elliot: Yeah, this is the first album with Maté, our new guitarist. We took the opportunity to have some very cool keyboard solos and guitar solos…


Christopher: Harmonised, crazy sounding stuff.


Elliot: The kind of stuff that Children of Bodom were doing ten years ago, ha, ha. All the stuff that we grew up with as we were coming up, we’ve got the opportunity to do that now which is pretty cool. It’s basically just an Alestorm album, which is very good.


You’ve just re-signed to Napalm too – what’s the story there?


Christopher: We just came to the end of our contracts, naturally it came time to choose another one. It was very much ‘better the devil you know’ – they’re very good to us and have taken the time to know what we want and in return, we try to be very good to them.


Gareth: We didn’t want a thing of getting to know a new guy, a new label and rep and whatever. Getting ‘that’s not the way we do things round here, at Fart-Pants Records’.


Elliot: What we were doing was working very well and it didn’t make sense to be greedy or whatever. We could have done the self-release thing but that sounds hard!


No plans for an album release show or mini-tour before the festival then?


K800 NGBTS Group 2 - Landscape


Elliot: I’m not sure actually what we’re doing on the day – nothing, probably. 


Christopher: Nothing, yeah. Nobody really likes album release shows because nobody knows the songs until after the album comes out.


Gareth: We were trying to arrange some press thing, where we play the album and congratulate ourselves while the press congratulates us too, but no-one cares.


That’s pretty surprising, considering this weekend alone I’ve probably seen 80 – 100 pirates walking around (admittedly, on the wrong days).


Elliot: That’s the thing, we’ve got 10 million hardcore fans, but no-one else cares.


What does it mean to a band like Alestorm to be able to play both independent boutique festivals like Hammerfest and mainstream ones like Download?


Elliot: We’ve been overlooked a bit in the UK. We’re pretty popular everywhere else but the UK has always been its own little thing that we haven’t quite managed to crack. It’s very cool though, that we can headline a festival like Hammerfest and play over at Download – it shows that we’re a draw.


Where is your biggest fan-base then – I would imagine somewhere Europe-way?


Christopher: Inevitably, yeah. In terms of chart positions, record sales type stuff, it would probably be Germany, but I say that… Our last album was Number 1 in the Rock Chart.


Gareth: Which is like Number 78 in the normal charts! Compared to Number 21 in Germany, or whatever.


Christopher: But Top 40 in Austria, Top 40 in Belgium and the Netherlands. 21 in Germany… So yeah – Europe pretty much. But we’re still popular in places like Australia, America, Canada so it’s not like we’re stuck in our own tiny little bubble.


Gareth: The world is ours!


Elliot: It’s nice that we’re not particularly huge in one place, but popular basically everywhere. It means we get to travel a lot.


I suppose it’s nice to not be in a situation like a band like Volbeat find themselves in – massive in Europe and headlining stadiums, relegated to clubs when they hit the UK.


Christopher: Yeah, we get to do the same thing no matter where we go. Our show could be the same anywhere we go in the world, it’s a massive party.


So, coming from Perth (well, apart from Gaz, who's from Belfast - Ed) I’m guessing you didn’t get a great many bands play up your way all that often. What’s your take on the “bands should play my back yard” type attitude?


K800 NGBTS Group 2 - Square


Christopher: Not ever, once, have we ever played a show in Perth.


So do you think the fans should travel to see bands more often?


Christopher: Oh my god, UK you are so fucking lazy! People say “why don’t you play my town? Why are you playing Nottingham, I live in Leicester!”.


Elliot: There are people in America who will (and have) driven for twelve hours just to see us.


Christopher: Half the crowd has driven over six hours, but here people are reluctant to go ten miles.


Elliot: What is wrong with you England?! “I was going to come to your Wolverhampton show, but you’re only playing in Birmingham…”


Gareth: “Too far for me”.


Elliot: Get on the fucking bus!


Christopher: Nowhere else in the world is like that. The shows *are* good here.


Elliot: But we have to do so many more gigs just because people won’t travel to see us.


Christopher: When you do a USA tour, the USA is what – 10, 20 times the size of the UK? And we do the same number of shows.


Elliot: If everyone in the UK was happy to travel more, we could do maybe five or six enormous shows. We end up doing twelve or more decent-sized shows, which is cool, but enormous could be so much cooler.


Well yeah, that’s what basically Motörhead had. For years they’d do like a 20-date tour or whatever, but towards the end when they were doing five or six shows, they had been bumped up to arena levels.


Elliot: That’s because people can be bothered to follow big bands like that. For us, it’s “oh no we don’t want to get the bus!”.


Why do you opt out of wearing costumes and whatever when you perform onstage?


Elliot: It’s a conscious decision.


Christopher: Because it’s stupid!


Elliot: It’s ridiculous, really. Nobody actually wants to see that – they think they do, but it gets very dull.


Christopher: First and foremost, we’re a band. We’re not a theatre act. You’d never go and ask a band who sing about love and relationships ‘why don’t you dress as a giant cuddly heart?’.


Elliot: We’re a band, so we dress as a band.


Gareth: Some of our songs are about pirates, but we’re just guys playing music.


Elliot: We still have stage clothes, though. We have things we specifically choose to wear onstage, but it’s not like a pirate costume.


Christopher: I mean, I wear a kilt, I suppose – but Germans wear kilts these days!


Keeping with that theme then, have you ever found that you come up with an idea for a song that you have to decide won’t work, because it’s not pirate related?


Alestorm No Grave artwork


Elliot: There’s always a way to make them fit.


Christopher: Personally, the way I write songs always tends to have that pirate-y sound anyway in my head.


Elliot: The way we put the melodies together is very idiosyncratic to our sound. Whatever a song is about, it’s going to sound like us.


Christopher: If I could I’d write songs that sounded different, but I can’t. We’ve tried it before and it didn’t work. We’ve never turned down a sound because it didn’t sound pirate-y enough.


As a final note then, what would you say are the biggest challenges facing a band like yourselves these days?


Gareth: Getting enough sleep!


Christopher: Ha ha, just that yeah. We’re very comfortable really – embarrassingly comfortable. You see some horror stories for some bands, but we’re embarrassingly content.


Gareth: Fans like our shows, like our T-shirts, they think our records are great and we love our fans for that, so everything’s great.


Right, well thank you very much guys, we’re very excited to hear the new album and see you at Download this summer!


Elliot: Yeah, see you at Download!


‘No Grave But The Sea’ will be released on 26 May via Napalm Records.


Alestorm play the Zippo Encore Stage of Download Festival on Saturday 10 June.


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