Sydney’s Hand of Mercy have enjoyed a massive rise in recent times. Last year’s well-received studio album ‘Last Lights’ was vindication of a band moving in the right direction. 2013 already looks to be even bigger. Killyourstereo.com sat down recently with guitarist Josh Campio to discuss the band’s upcoming European tour, their spot at next month’s Push Over fest…and Taylor Swift records.
Last year was a big year for the band with the release of ‘Last Lights’ and obviously this year it looks like it is going to be even bigger. What stuck out the most from 2012 for you?
Releasing the album on UNFD. It was the first major release we’ve ever had. We didn’t know what to expect and the reception was really good. Far beyond anything we thought we’d ever receive. Getting to tour a lot last year was heaps of fun – especially with Parkway at the start of the year [that] was pretty out of control (laughs).
Seeing places we’d never be able to see as a band on our own or even think about going to in general. Those two things were the biggest things for us last year, at least for me.
When you’re talking about things just then and places you never thought you’d see, you’ve got a pretty big tour schedule coming up soon, which includes Europe. What’s the mood like going into that?
I really have no idea. When I first joined this band I thought playing at the Lansdowne perhaps once a month was as far as we’d ever get, let alone playing in another country or doing an entire tour with one of the bands [Bleeding Through] I listened to heaps growing up. When I first joined this band, they were and they still are, a great band. I have no idea what to expect. I just take every day as it comes and try and save as much money as I can so I can do some touristy stuff in between as well. Try and treat it as a holiday but also pretty seriously as well. I guess I’ll find out when I get there (laughs).
Just on that when you were talking about saving money, when you’re in a band a lot of people are perhaps a bit naïve and think playing in a band brings in a lot of money. But, you’ve got to balance the finances quite well. How hard can that be?
It can be hard. It is one of those things, if you’re not good with your money, it teaches you to be good with your money because you’ve got to save for gear and when you’re away you’ve got to save to make sure you have enough money for food throughout the day. We don’t earn any money personally from it. We all have jobs so when we go away we aren’t eating into any of the money we manage to save as a band. I guess it’s one of those things where we all have Monday to Friday jobs. We’re going to Europe, so we get to have a ball in Europe. It’s a good trade off, but it’s one of those things you have to be pretty careful sometimes.
I was going to ask about that because you’ve mentioned your jobs, there’s a lot more sacrifices involved. I know right now I’m sitting in the Destroy All Lines offices in Melbourne. I know Dawson had to give up his role in Sydney to focus on the band. Is there a lot of sacrifice now with the more touring?
I guess yes. The job I have at the moment, I had to go casual there. I was full-time, but I had to casual because I was starting to be there less and less. I’ve been pretty lucky that they’ve been pretty flexible with me and I’ve been like, “I have to be away for this long.” And they’ve always been, “ok, that’s fine.” All of us have been pretty lucky in that sense that up until now most of us have been able to keep the jobs we’ve had. Maybe one day we’ll come back and they’ll say, “sorry you’ve been gone for too long” and we can’t keep doing it anymore. I guess when that day comes we’ll have to sit down and have a look at it. It is a bit of a balancing act at the moment, but I wouldn’t do it any other way.
You’re signed with our office friends UNFD. Can you give us an insight into what the working relationship is like with those guys?
It is really great. We get along with everyone there like a house on fire. Whenever we go down to Melbourne, we always go and hang out with the dudes there like, Duane and Luke and Jaddan. I know Luke [Logemann, UNFD A&R/Marketing] will come up to Sydney a bunch of times. The working relationship is good. They always help us out with promotion and helping us with selling merch on their site, and also help us out with tours as well. It is great. It has been nothing but fantastic from the day we started really.
Obviously we’ve talked about the tours so far. Once the tours started winding down later in the year are you going to start looking at writing a new album?
We are working on bits and pieces and new stuff all the time. We’re always writing new stuff and working on new material. Hopefully by the end of the year maybe we’ll look at getting a bit more serious. Maybe in the next couple of months we’ll look to write a bit more heavy, a bit more full-on. I don’t think that is going to interfere with touring. We’ve always been able to balance that. Any of opportunity we get to write we take that now.
You probably haven’t discussed it too much yet, but when it comes time to record do you think you’ll go back to the States again?
I definitely think we will. It just worked so well last time we were there. Not that to say anything about recording in Australia, there’s some fantastic recording studios in Australia, with fantastic people who work there. It is just one of those things that perhaps there’s a bit more variety over there. There are such big bands over there as well. There is just a different sound, you want to improve your sound or go for a different sound. I think we’ll probably go over to the States again and do it over there.
We’ve mentioned the Europe tour, but one of the local ones you’ve got is Push Over festival coming up in March. It’s exciting being at the Music Bowl, but it is a bit of a UNFD mini-fest.
Yeah, you’re right it is a bit of a UNFD mini-fest. There are the big heavy hitters like Amity and Northlane and Dream on Dreamer and In Hearts Wake and us. I think D At Sea is on that well. It is cool, we’ve done tours or at least played shows with most of those bands, so it will be fun to hang out with friends from around Australia and play some music and watch those bands. I’m excited, Push Over is one of those things I’ve always wanted to play.
On that, one of the strengths of that festival is that it supports all ages music and the local community. Is that one of the things that appeals to you about it?
Absolutely. I like all ages shows a bit more. Not to say over 18s shows are bad. When I was kid growing up listening to heavy music, sometimes there just aren’t venues for kids. Is Freeza the ones that put it on?
I think it is Freeza. I think they are still involved with it.
It is just cool when someone wants to get involved with things for kids. It gives kids something to do for the day. They get to hang out with their friends and watch bands. I really like that. I back that pretty hard.
You’ve been functioning in a band for a few years now. What’s the best bit of experience you’ve learnt from being in a band?
I guess you find out how to get on with people a bit more. I was always a shy guy in school, so I just found out how to connect with people and be more sociable and stuff with people you meet through a common interest. I’ve gotten a lot more friends out of that and learnt how to connect with people a lot better. I think that is one of the main things I’ve gotten out of it.
What are some of the current styles or sounds that are inspiring you the most at the moment?
There is always a staple like The Ghost Inside and Hatebreed. Right now I’m listening to a lot of pop music, so I don’t really know if that has been much of an influence on writing music? It definitely helps you look at writing music in a different way I guess. I guess I just contradicted what I said there (laughs).
That new Taylor Swift album ‘Red’ is out of control. I know its old, but ‘Take Care’ by Drake is pretty sick and Kendrick Lamar. It gives you a different spin on how you can phrase lyrics or different rhythms. We play pretty rhythmic music. Breakdowns they are just rhythm. It is good to listen to different types of music to get a different take on things.
I know this is a bit of a loaded question and hard to answer, but what’s your take on the local metal and hardcore scene at the moment?
I think it is pretty good. When we first started it was massive. There weren’t heaps of bands, but all the bands that were doing it, everyone was really into. Everyone made an effort to go out to shows. Then it started dying off. Now, it is starting to get back to how it was. There are more shows going on, people are trying to find venues to put shows on as well. It was getting pretty low key, but now it is coming back or it is back and it is only getting stronger. I don’t know if that was too long an answer (laughs).
What advice would you give to a group of teenagers that were perhaps thinking of starting a band?
Just keep at it. It is one of those things, people want their band to be famous before they want it to be good. It is one of those things where you have to keep at it. No one is going to think you are the greatest thing since sliced bread when you strum your first chord. If you like doing it then keep doing it because you like doing it. Don’t keep doing it because you have this grand idea of becoming the next big thing. It may happen, but at the same time it is better to bank on it not happening and just do it because you love it rather than because you have some sort of hidden agenda. Don’t get defeated because you’re not the biggest thing after six months. We’ve been around for seven years and it has only started happening for us in the past couple of years. So don’t give up, that’s the best thing I could probably say.
The band and playing music is such a big part of your life at the moment, but when you’re not touring and not writing and away from band mode, what do you like to get up to?
I like going to shows because a lot of my friends go to them. I draw a bit at home. I do pretty standard stuff. We are pretty normal dudes. Hanging out with my friends, doing whatever, going out on the weekends. I do what everyone else does I guess (laughs).
Were there any final words you wanted to pass onto readers?
Thanks for reading. Come out to a show and say hi, and support your local scene and keep it going.
Thanks for the interview today Josh. I’ll catch up with you guys again next time you’re down here in Melbourne.
Alright cheers, thanks for that Kane.