While we don’t like throwing around terms like ‘buzz’ or ‘hype’ without reason, it’s hard to deny the commotion surrounding up-and-coming UK hardcore act Continents right now. Formed in 2010, they’ve built a solid following in the United Kingdom and are set to take on the world with the release of debut album Idle Hands, which is packed with powerhouse vocals, technical guitars and hard-hitting breakdowns perfect for the mosh pit. To get the lowdown on ‘the UK’s premiere hardcore band’, Killyourstereo.com had a chat to vocalist Phil Cross about the debut album, what fuels their music and making it in the UK hardcore scene.
What’s up? It’s Jack from Killyourstereo.com. Can we please start with your name, role in Continents and favourite album of last year?
I’m Phil (Cross) and I’m the vocalist in Continents. My favourite album of 2012 would have to be While She Sleeps’ This Is The Six.
Can you tell us a little bit about how Continents started?
To tell the truth, none of us really knew each other… this wasn’t a best friends from school kind of deal. Darryl (Sweet, guitar) had written a bunch of our early material. He had nailed about three songs and really needed to get a band together. He messaged Tom (Weaver, guitar) via Facebook and asked if he knew anyone who would be interested in joining a band. The last thing he expected was for Tom to reply saying yes and that he would be up for playing guitar – though, as he will admit, at the time he couldn’t. Darryl taught him some things and before we knew it, they were auditioning for other members. They stole me from another local band – being poachers as they were – then after a few tryouts we found Dom (Turner, bass) and lastly, ‘Ken’ (Hamill, drums). We had to persuade Ken to join the band. I’d like to think he’s made the right choice now. So it really started August 2010.
When I was researching you, I stumbled across an album called Land Of Plenty by a band called Continents. I’m assuming this is a different band. In fact, I’m certain it is. Have you had a word to these guys about using the name Continents? Would you consider changing your name to avoid confusion?
Yeah, it sure is another band. We checked it out on Spotify last year. No, we haven’t had a word with them as they released that album before we released anything. They are not even on Facebook, strangely. There are some other Continents bands but I think they have all split up from what I have seen on Facebook.
Did you always want to play music for a living? Do you guys have jobs outside the band to get by?
I have always wanted to be in a band, having gone to thousands of local shows when I was younger. Watching people sing back to you what you write is the best feeling ever. No words can describe it.
I had to quit my job to tour, as I ran out of holidays. I was working in a legal office. Some of the boys still work. Dom is a tattooist and Darryl sells steel, which he’s making a hefty wage from, I will be honest (laughs). We have decided to pack in our jobs and find part-time work just to cover us, as we really want to make this work and pump this album as much as we can at the moment.
Are you guys named after The Acacia Strain album, Continent? Just a guess, really. If not, where does the name come from?
I hate this question! No, our name does NOT come from Acacia Strain. I just went along with the name. The boys wanted something that stood out and didn’t want anything that was too long, just one word that was strong and said something about us. Continents are large landmasses and we feel that we are a large landmass… just joking (laughs). But on a serious note, we just wanted something that sounded strong and was easy to remember.
What can you tell us about your new album, Idle Hands?
The album was recorded by Stu (McKay) at Studio Six in Swindon, UK, and was mixed and mastered by Pete Rutcho, who has worked with The Ghost Inside and Bury Your Dead. We had three months to get everything together while still touring over the summer. It was a hard process as we were not ready, so it involved lots of sleepless nights, arguing over riffs, trying to practice the material and basically coming up with the entire album. We then did pre-production before we entered the studio and recorded it all in three weeks during October. Even though the process mentally tested us, I think it brought us closer together, as we no longer keep things to ourselves and we are really happy with the final outcome. On a lighter note, we have already started album #2 (laughs).
What fuels the aggression in your music? Are there certain social issues, ideas or themes that you’re passionate about raising awareness of?
On the album there are songs that are personal to me, like ‘Pegasus, Pegasus’, which is about a breakup and wanting to be with someone when you can’t because of all the issues between you. I mixed up two breakups in that one song, to be different. I hate women who are attention-seekers and I was in a shit place at the time when I wrote that.
‘Lions Den’ is about a part of my life that I never want to go back to. I didn’t want to write about this part of my life, as I never wanted people to pick up on my weakness. I wrote the song the night before we recorded it in the studio – literally the night before – and decided I wanted to show a different side to me, but to do it in a way that would allow others to feel the song lyrics-wise, too.
There are songs with positive messages that give a “fuck you” to anyone that puts you down, like ‘Trials’. ‘Exhale’ – a personal song for all of us – is dedicated to all the so-called friends that slated us for signing. Other songs on the album are about me questioning my belief in God, while one song is about government conspiracies and the NWO.
Just to mix it up: if you could organise your own music festival anywhere in the world, where would it be held, what would it be called and who would play?
Ideally, it would be held by my house in the huge fields just next door, as I hate camping. That way I could go home, have a shower every night and be fresh for the next day (laughs). I’d get Slipknot, Parkway Drive, Lamb of God, Comeback Kid, The Ghost Inside, Bring Me The Horizon, Sick Of It All, Emmure, Machine Head, Strife, Newfound Glory, Stray From The Path, A Day To Remember, TRC, The Movielife, The Hope Conspiracy, and a dance tent for myself and the old school Drive-Thru records stage (laughs).
Was it hard starting out in the UK metal and hardcore scene given the amount of bands trying to get ahead? What do you think allowed you to stick out from the pack?
It was very hard. I think the UK touring circuit is a tough one for any band. I have seen big bands from the US come over and there have been 30 people at a show. It’s a very up and down circuit, unless it’s festival season.
With Continents, I think our approach helped. We don’t have this tough guy hardcore/metal band approach – we are approachable guys, who like to interact as much as we can with the crowd at every show. We have fun in the same sort of way Parkway Drive do. We never set out to get signed and we just wanted to play shows. I’m taken back when I see anyone singing our songs. I never take any of it for granted.
While you’ve racked up tens of thousands of Youtube hits with the videos for ‘Idle Hands’ and ‘Trials’, the internet also allows people to talk a lot of shit about bands. Do you pay attention to what people write about you online, or does that not really bother you?
I ignore it. If you start reading stuff, you get yourself worked up and wanting to reply to everything. Some people can be so harsh… they’re keyboard warriors with nothing better to do than slate people. These kids are not happy with their own lives. People are entitled to their own opinion, and I suppose that’s why the comment box is there and dislike button, but luckily, the response has been mostly positive.
Bands like Black Veil Brides are not my cup of tea. That band gets slated every day, but they push on and they must be doing something right as they’re selling music and still going strong, so hats off to them at the end of the day. That’s the idea – put out the shit you love, be appreciative to the fans that love your music, and understand that there will be others who hate it.
Do you think there’s a greater need for bands to connect with their fans via social media these days as opposed to even a few years ago?
It’s good to interact with fans as much as possible as they take the time to write to you, so a short message back doesn’t hurt. If they’re asking a question or telling you a song means something to them, there’s no excuse to not respond. We love our fans and will never leave them hanging.
And the one million dollar question: When will Continents tour Australia?
As soon as humanly possible!
And a few quick ones to finish up on…
What’s your favourite action movie of all time and why?
I just saw Gangster Squad and have now decided that’s my favourite film. There’s some ace acting in it and the storyline is brilliant.
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
It would definitely be Ryan Gosling. He’s got the same hair as me (laughs).
What are your top five songs to crank while getting amped for a show?
The Hope Conspiracy – ‘Animal Farm’
Slipknot – ‘Eyeless’
Pantera – ‘Walk’
Devil Sold His Soul – ‘Frozen’
TRC – ‘Bastard’
Who do you most want to punch in the face right now?
Ian Watkins for the sickening shit that’s in his head. He used to be an idol of mine.
Most embarrassing album in your record collection?
Hard house nation rave music I found from years ago.