Falling Red - Spring 2018

For the uninitiated, Cumbria is a place in the North of England that proudly contains some of the most stunning scenery not only in the country but perhaps even the world. Gorgeous imposing mountains across 6,768 square kilometres hug its 16 idyllic lakes, together creating a wonderful home for the most diverse of wildlife that reside here. Visitors enjoy their cream teas, Kendal Mint Cake and boat rides with peace and quite… almost. Puzzled looks demonstrate an attempt to decipher an underlying rumble. Despite the rain clouds this isn’t the sound of distant thunder. Nor is it the vibrations from the rally in nearby Grysedale Forest. This is British rockers Falling Red rehearsing their new album Lost Souls.

Hailing from Carlisle, Falling Red are Andrew Roze (vocals and lead guitar), Dave Sanders (drums and vocals), Mikey Lawless (bass and vocals) and Shane Kirk (guitar and vocals). Having already released 2 strong records – 2010’s Shake the Faith and 2014’s Empire of the State, the band are back with Lost Souls, their most eclectic and powerful album to date. In short there is something for everyone on this album. Throughout its 13 tracks there are hints of Skid Row, Faith No More, Guns n Roses, Motley Crue and Velvet Revolver. Whilst we may be citing bands who have their roots in the 80s and 90s, Falling Red have created an entirely modern feel with their latest record, and whilst reflecting a number of varying styles it surprisingly creates a really cohesive album. We catch up with drummer Dave Sanders to find out how the album that came together.       

Lost Souls is an incredible record that showcases so many different styles of music. There are aggressive hard rock and metal tracks such as The Day I Lost My Soul, Digital Disguise, Alive and Hell In My Eyes but also with softer and sometimes acoustic moments such as My Town and Beautiful Lie. Was it a conscious effort to create such a diverse record?

The thing is, every record we’ve done in the past, Shake the Faith and Empire of the Damned, we started off with a theme. We would write songs and think ‘that won’t fit on the album’ or we ‘we need to write it like this’ or ‘we need the lyrics to be a bit more like this and the vocal style a bit more like this’. With this one, because we haven’t released an album in 4 years - we gigged the life out of Empire of the Damned – we sat down and started writing songs. At first we were a bit like ‘that won’t go on an album…’ and then just thought, do you know what, let’s just write songs that come naturally and that we enjoy. There was no conscious effort behind it and we weren’t trying to prove a point. Those songs came naturally. Some were written lyrics first and then the music, some were the music first and then the lyrics were quite difficult to put in, and some weren’t even written by the time we went in the studio! They were put together in 20 minutes. Songs like My Town My City, when Rozie first wrote that song - he first played it to me maybe 18 months or 2 years ago as the bare bones, it was just the chorus - and when he played it to me I said ‘Don’t ever think that’s going on a Falling Red album! That will never go on a Falling Red album – never in a million years!’. About a year later I could still remember it and I basically caved and allowed it to happen! It turned out absolutely brilliantly once we started writing it properly.

How did you decide on the title Lost Souls?

The first songs that we wrote for the album were Alive, which we wrote with Danny our ex-guitarist, My Town My City and The Day I lost My Soul. So when we were out gigging, the two songs that slipped into the set quite a while ago were Lost My Soul and Alive. We were sitting there and talking about all these different names for the album thinking do we do it self titled? Do we do something cryptic? But we wanted a really strong title track and I thought about The Day I lost My Soul and suggested Lost Souls? I just put that forward and the lads were like ‘yeah, we’ll use it as the idea of album name’ and eventually we just called it Lost Souls! We sent the idea, the song, the lyrics and the title that we had to Danny McMahon up in Edinburgh and he’s the guy who put all the artwork together, surrounding it with the zombies and them going into Hell on the back and them coming out of Hell on the front and horns and everything. So there was no real thought behind it, we already had the song and it made for a great title track.

The song My Town My City opens with the lyrics ‘This is my town, my city, not everyone thinks it’s pretty’. That’s a quite a statement given that Cumbria is one of the world’s most beautiful locations. Is this perhaps an interpretation of how restricted and remote a location it is as far as band opportunities go? 

I suppose it’s a little bit of everything. You can take that statement in a few different ways. I mean it’s an absolutely gorgeous place to live. I absolutely love it and I was born and raised here. But I think what it really stands for, the song as a whole is about how no matter where you live, there are people who can’t wait to leave. They hate it. They want to go to the big city and all that. And then they get away and then I think they realise how good they had it back home, or they leave their family and friends at home and want to come back and that’s pretty much what the song was written around. That kind of love/hate relationship. When you spend so much time somewhere you start to see the faults in it and the flaws in it and you start to think there must be something better than this. And whether you’re doing it as a career, a job or a band or anything like that I think everyone’s always looking to take that step up and go for what the next best thing is… but it isn’t always the case. It may have hindered us a little bit over the years because we are a little bit out of the way but it’s not stopped us getting on the road , it’s not stopped us travelling to record and play shows all over the country, Europe, Scandinavia or anywhere like that. We love the place, we love where we are from. 3 of us are from Cumbria born-and-raised, 1 is from Edinburgh and he now lives in Carlisle so he’s an adopted son to Carlisle. It’s just about having that love/hate relationship and how maybe the grass isn’t always greener. 

The 30th March sees you releasing a video for Hell In My Eyes. This track is simply genius and a real lesson in how to bring incredible originality and groove into the rhythm section.  It certainly pushes boundaries around how a rock track can be structured. How did this particular track come together?

Well, just in what you were saying there, when we’ve asked for the feedback from anyone who pledged on the album/bought the album, Hell In My Eyes has been the song that’s been on 95% of people’s tongues, and the way it came about – and I can’t remember the exact reason why we started doing this – but we were sat in Rozie our singer’s house, he came up with an idea which I think was for a chorus, and we said we wanted to do a song that was heavily bass and drum-driven without any guitars in the verses. We literally didn’t even write the rhythm on a guitar or anything like that. We all just started humming it and singing it to get this rhythm to see how we would roll until the guitars come in. And that’s literally how it came about. We write most of our stuff on acoustics. Rozie and I write. I can’t play – I literally just use pads and pens as drums (laughs)! Then we just start tearing lyrics apart, writing lyrics and writing melodies, mostly done over a lot of cups of tea and biscuits sitting in our houses! 

What I think is particularly interesting about this approach of humming a melody when evolving a song is that you weren’t actually constrained by your instruments. The guitars needed to fit around the melody you have created and not the other way round. 

The thing for me is that I can’t play guitar. I literally can play drums. I’m not the sort of person who can sit down and pick up a guitar and rattle out a quick riff and go ‘what do you think of that?’. I’m a guy who will drive round in his car with a lyric or melody line in my head and I have to just set my voice recorder off on my phone or whatever I’ve got at the time and just sing it out loud. I’ll just send the band these little voice clippings. So that’s how a lot of things start. Or Rozie might just send me something like ‘I’ve just got these few words and I think they will be really good’ and he’ll give me the melody and we’ll just write from their. 

It’s interesting that you might be doing this in your car. I can just imagine you with the window down at the traffic lights and an old lady walking past thinking ‘what’s going on in there?!’ (Laughs)

But let’s just pick up on the lyrics because lyrically it’s essentially about strength, determination and taking no crap. How autobiographical is this track?

It’s kind of about the day to day struggles of life, basically. You want that peace and quiet but you’re at work and everyone wants to talk to you. When you want to chill and you can’t. When things get the better of you or times get busy and when money gets tight - all that sort of stuff. That all builds into the aggression that can come out of nowhere and through things not going right. That said, it only semi tells you that in the story in the video. I’m not going to say too much because we are really happy with how the video has turned out. We got speaking to Pav whose done videos for Knock Out Kaine, Thirteen Stars and people like that and we loved his work. We sent him the lyrics, sent him the song and said ‘what do you think?’. Now the idea he came back with we’d have never have thought of in a million years. All we said was ‘it’s called Hell In My Eyes and it’s got to have fire in it!’ (Laughs). He came back with an idea and story-boarded the whole video to us. Literally you could see in your head what he was thinking about doing. When I read it back to the lads I said ‘This is what he thinks’. Everyone of them said ‘that’s clever that…. we never saw it that way…’. But then when you think about it and when you see the video it all makes sense and the day to day struggles and the things that go on in your life, the people you love and the people you hate, it all makes sense in the video. It’s all Pav’s doing. He wrote it start to finish, story-boarded the whole thing, arranged the actors and he’s worked wonders. (Check out TV Pav on You Tube and @TVPav on Twitter– Ed)

Overall, what’s your ambition for this record?

When we did Empire, we tried to do everything on our own. We did a Pledge campaign, we crowd-funded it, and so that’s why we went down the same route this time. The whole Pledge Music platform is fantastic. The reason there so many bands doing it is because is it so fantastic. You can give something back to the fans. They would buy the CD anyway – they’re just helping you in advance. You can give them really cool stuff, cool updates and stuff everyone can’t see. But the whole idea of getting with Terri (Terri Chapman, Managing Director, Rock People Management) and having Rock People Management behind us and going with Cargo Records was all to do with how we wanted it distributed into the right places, we wanted to get it into the shops and how we wanted to make a big comeback! We used to play150 gigs a year and we went quiet. Probably because we toured Empire of the Damned without sitting down to write. So we took ourselves off the scene. We were still about and people thought very highly of us but we didn’t do a lot. So this is literally like a comeback record for us. It’s a big comeback record. We’ve taken the time to write and record it and to get the artwork how we want it, use the producer we wanted and get it into the shops. It’s gone into HMV, it’s sold out in numerous shops up and down the country to the point that Cargo Distribution had to get in touch with us and double the second order because it was flying out that quick. So the whole idea is just to get us back on the scene, get us in the right places and get people talking about Falling Red again.

The album has only just been released but the response has been phenomenal. You must be really proud.

I was really shocked. We did the Pledge campaign, hundreds of people had the CD and the download etc back in October. And then we toured, held our album launch - we sold a lot of albums there – and then we did a tour with Farran and The Fragile Things where we sold a load of albums there. And I was actually quite worried because I just thought, ‘you know what, a lot of people have already got the album’ and I didn’t think it was going to impact as much as it did. But our fans have been so good to us over the years that people who already had the album then just got behind the promotion ready for it coming out publicly. Anyone who didn’t have it flew out to HMV. The Monday following the Friday release the distributors placed another order to meet the incredible demand. By the Wednesday when the collection was being made, the distributors asked if the order could be doubled. I was absolutely blown away. I don’t think any of us expected it to go the way it did but it’s absolutely blown us away, and hearing what people think of it, it’s just absolutely brilliant! And brilliant to be back with a bang!

Let’s focus now on a Falling Red’s live shows. You’ve toured with Sebastian Bach, Skid Row, Steel Panther and The Burning Crows amongst others. All those artists and bands were clearly a good fit as touring partners. What did Falling Red learn from your time with them?

The biggest tour we’ve done is with Steel Panther. The big thing for us there was that we had a lucky break, we got to play the tour and we got to see how the big boys play, basically! Walking into catering every night and you’ve got your dinner, your tea, your evening meal. It’s all Al a Carte. You can ask for whatever you want. We started testing it for a while where we would ask for some strawberry yazoos (laughs), some fruit pastels, a packet of Polos, this chewing gum, these crisps, this cider, and the next day this guy would come in it’s everything we asked for! What it showed us is just what the big bands are doing. Now that’s great if you can keep at that level. Touring with bands such as The Burning Crows and Dirty Penny, what it showed us is how pro you can be at that level and how much fun you can have doing it. When we toured with The Burning Crows and Dirty Penny, they are probably 2 of my favourite tours because we lived in each other’s pockets, we slept in the same places and ate in the same places. And that’s where all the fun is. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what makes the touring fun and makes everything worth while: just going out, playing packed shows and being around some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Looking ahead you’re playing a number of festivals this year including the Dementia Aware Festival in Cannock on 31st March; the NLC Festival and Dublin Castle in May; and The Reaper Fest in August and the Hard Rock Sleaze event in September. What does it mean to be playing these festivals and when can we expect a headline tour? 

With the festivals, we love that no matter how much we go off the scene we are always well thought of. Dave Evans who does Dementia Aware puts on a phenomenal festival. We’ve played for him before and we were buzzing to go back. NLC, the team do it for such a great cause and they raise such a phenomenal amount of money, and they’ve had us 3 or 4 times. We love going to play these places. The whole idea this year though regarding headline shows is that we’ve actually booked select shows throughout the year rather than do a string of touring because for the last few years we’ve done tour after tour after tour. What we wanted to do this year was go ‘right, instead of giving people a choice of 10 shows, we will give people maybe do 2 in this month, 2 in that month, 4 in that month’ to get people excited about the shows again. We will do a couple in the north, a couple in the south etc and do it that way rather than spend the time going up and down the country. We’ll just spread them out over a few months generally between June and September.

As our conversation draws to a close we reflect on what a superb album Lost Souls really is and how Falling Red have absolutely taken the right decision to invest the 4 years since their last album to explore new territory and unshackle themselves from their former rigid songwriting process. The result is an incredibly strong album with potentially universal appeal. It’s a very exciting time indeed.  

Find out more at www.falling-red.com and in the meantime enjoy their latest video Hell In My Eyes below.