Sydney heavy-hitters Shinto Katana have been proponents of rage for seven years. Their third album, ‘Redemption’, takes the band back to its roots, balancing out the metallic aggression with the melodic sensibilities of their original full-length, ‘Cold Streets’. Frontman Dave Naylor recently spoke to Kill Your Stereo about ‘Redemption’ and their upcoming Australian tour alongside New Zealand mainstays Antagonist A.D.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your role in the band?
I’m the singer. A bit about the band; we got together in 2005, pretty much grew up together and always loved music. We had a common interest in the type of music we played and just loved it. My interests are golf, wrestling, music obviously. I work full-time as an electrician.
What is the inspiration behind your music?
To be as heavy as possible and aggressive as possible. When we started, we listened to bands like On Broken Wings. They were one of our main influences, just basically the hard-hitting stuff. There’s not much behind it, that’s how we’ve always been, to be heavier and more aggressive than those we’re inspired by.
But at the same time, the music seems to be pretty melodic as well.
Yeah, definitely, that’s something we picked up along the way. We started dabbling in that in the early days. For the last album, ‘We Can’t Be Saved’, we wanted to concentrate more on getting as heavy as possible and lost the “melodic”. After that album, we realised that wasn’t what we wanted to do. We were able to achieve the heaviness, but the melodic style that we were originally playing was more “us”, so we tried to perfect that.
‘Cold Streets’ and ‘We Can’t Be Saved’ are very different albums stylistically. What was the band’s songwriting approach for ‘Redemption’?
For ‘Redemption’, we basically sat down and we wanted to plan this one out rather than rushing out the songs. We got together and we wanted to make sure we all had input on this one. On previous records, we’d have Joel writing the guitar riffs, Tron would put some drums to it and I’d come along and put some lyrics to it. This time, we made sure we’d all have time to be there so that everyone could have input in and to take our time with it.
Lyrically, what are the songs on ‘Redemption’ about?
They’re all about different situations obviously, and all have their own meaning. Basically, it’s like telling yourself you’ll never change but as you stay the same, the world around you changes. I think these songs touch on the pain of being tempted to change to keep up with the world, and finding out that you have changed. You realise that you should’ve stayed the same and you should’ve stayed true for yourself.
Was there any musical experimentation on the album?
We knew what we wanted on this one, so I think there was more experimentation on the last album than this one. This one was more planned out and we didn’t experiment with much. We just did what we knew we could do well.
‘Redemption’ is being distributed by Let It Burn Records in Europe. How did the deal with the label originate?
When we were shopping around for labels in Australia they sort of just popped up and put their hand up saying they were interested. It worked out to be a good deal for us. We were always down for that, to get our music out as far as possible. It’s a good thing.
What was it like working with Frankie from Emmure on the track, ‘Solitary’?
He was fairly easy to work with. We did the tour with him in July last year and we got close along the way. He turned out to be a really cool dude. We thought it would be great to have him on the album, so I emailed him and he said, “I’m down, let’s do it.”
The band is set to tour Australia alongside Antagonist A.D. Are you excited for the tour?
Can’t wait, man. Antagonist have been our friends for a long time. We’ve played at least a dozen shows with those guys over the years in Sydney and in Melbourne. We have a really good relationship with those guys. I was talking with Sam (Crocker, frontman of Antagonist A.D.) the other day and we were both psyched to have the maddest time. It’ll be good to get out on the road.
Will you be breaking out any demo tracks this time around?
No, not on this one. I guess it depends on the crowd. We’re always down to do that. We get probably two or three people telling us to play it at every show, but if we get about ten or more then we feel obliged to do it.
Well, you should at least do it at the hometown show!
You never know. If we were going to do it, I wouldn’t tell you. We’d keep it a surprise.
Where is your favourite place to visit when you’re on the road?
It always changes. I really like Melbourne and Queensland. You know what, I like Adelaide as well. I like ever place we go to for different reasons, but I suppose we’re looking forward to Melbourne this time around because we’ll be there for four days. Anywhere we get to hang out and just chill in a certain place is good. Normally we’re there for a night and leave straight away.
Are there any plans to bring Shinto Katana’s live show overseas?
We’ve had offers to go overseas to Europe and America. We toured South-East Asia last year, which was amazing. I suppose Europe and America, we’re just waiting for the right offer, the right time, to do what’s best for the band. We don’t want to just race over there. Our album just came out here so our priority is Australia. I’d say it’s probably in the near future that we’re looking at doing that, probably next year.
The band has a strong Sydney hardcore mentality. Do you think our local scene is alive and well?
I think it is, definitely. Sydney is just cranking at the moment, you can’t deny it. A lot of the bands that have been up-and-coming for so long while other bands have been thriving in other states are thriving here now. We find that when we’re on the road and we’re touring, I hear from a lot of other bands that Sydney is their best show these days when they’re up here. I think people are keen on hardcore here which helps. A lot of people know each other as well and there are a lot of friendships going around.
Tell me about the craziest thing the band has ever done?
The craziest thing we’ve ever done? Ah… I probably couldn’t say that in an interview. Most of our craziest experiences are too red hot. I’ll tell you one thing. Our merch dude, we usually give him a case of beer, but the rule is that he has to finish the case of beer before the show. That normally ends up as a pretty good night. The amount of times I’ve had him walk on stage, completely blind, hassling me for a drink of water while I’m talking to the crowd. That’s probably the most PG story I could tell you about Shinto.
You guys have had a long lifespan for your average Australian heavy band. What does the future hold for Shinto Katana?
The way it works for us is we never really know what the future holds. We hope for the best and work really hard at doing what we do and it seems to be getting us somewhere at the moment. We’ve had a long lifespan because we’re all best friends. Everyone in the band has known each other for years. We didn’t meet each other through music, we found music through each other and it’s always worked for us. When we’re going through some bad times, it’s fine because we’re doing it with our best mates and in the good times, we just thrive.
Do you have any goals that you’d like to achieve with the band?
I think one of the main goals would be to tour Europe and America. We’ve been going for years but I don’t think we’ll stop until we’ve done that. That’s something that we want to do. After seven years of playing together it’d be nice to get over there and experience that.
Are there any comments you’d like to finish on?
Keep your ears out for 10 Paces, a band from Sydney. They’ve just recorded a new EP and that should be out in the next three years if they get their shit together. They sat on their last record for a while, so hopefully they don’t take as long this time.