Five years after the release of 2008’s ‘Controller’, metalcore outfit Misery Signals are just about to release new album ‘Absent Light’. Ahead of release, Killyourstereo.com talks to guitarist Ryan Morgan about time off, producing the record in-house, and the power of crowdfunding.
After the release of ‘Controller’, Misery Signals were inactive for a while and took some time off touring. What have you been up to in the interim?
We all put out a number of side projects. All of us stayed pretty active with music as a whole. I had one called Burning Empires, which was kind of a stripped down hardcore band and Karl did Solace, which was like a "djenty", eight-string progressive mosh sort of thing. My brother [Branden Morgan, drums] did one called The Company We Keep, kind of indie-rock stuff. So we’ve been busy with music still. We’ve also been dealing with a couple of other things as far as the geography of the band being all split up. We changed a couple members and the label we were on became like, this independent force.
Sounds like you’ve been busy, then. Returning to touring as part of Misery Signals, what was it like getting back up there and reconnecting?
The future was a bit uncertain for a moment there, and I think people had picked up on the fact that things were a little in doubt for a while.
You never officially announced a hiatus or anything like that.
Exactly, no. It was never really our judgement to be honest. It was just this lapse in time where people didn’t hear from us. Being this super-active band – in 2009 we did a world tour and played something like 300 shows – so there was a juxtaposition, people could tell something was up. I think it served us well. It added some anticipation, and people had a bit of an appetite for our return before there was even too long of a break. Coming back to touring we were really enthusiastically received, and it was awesome. I don’t think every band in this day and age can take time off and have people be patient and stick with ’em. I feel very reassured to have gotten a warm response.
You’re just about to release your new album ‘Absent Light’. To me, it sounds like you’ve wanted to keep the quite technical and melodic elements while still being very heavy and aggressive. Did you have any sort of deliberate direction when you started mapping out the album?
At first, I didn’t really have a clear picture in mind of what the album was going to be. Some of the time off I talked about where we were changing members and people were all spread out geographically, I wasn’t sure the band was going to continue entirely. It was in the back of my head. I was writing these songs and I wasn’t sure where they were going to end up. So at first I was writing to keep writing, and then once we re-solidified the lineup and did some touring and had Greg [Thomas, guitar] on board, we started talking about what we all wanted the album to be. He and I being the primary riff-writers, there were definitely some things we discussed. Basically, I think the last three years I think I haven’t talked to Greg without the conversation ending up about the album, or what it was going to be, or what was going on at that time. We co-produced it, and wrote the majority of it, and so we were pretty intimately involved with this project. If I’m being honest, it was pretty overthought. We knew we wanted to make a high-energy record that was intense and had a relentless feel to it, that was probably the most conscious decision of the whole thing, then there were certain elements from Misery Signals records that we thought really worked that we wanted to continue and try to re-visit but also branch out from.
You mentioned you and Greg took a first with this album in that you produced the album yourselves. What sort of influence do you think that had on the overall experience?
It was great, man. We weren’t out on our in the wilderness or anything like that. We’re producers, and we worked with some really great engineers. Steve Evetts mixed the record, who’s like, a legend. We were in the captain’s chairs, though. We were making the decisions and driving the album. We had a clear picture of how the album was going to be sonically and how the production was going to turn out. We wanted to avoid that very produced and over-triggered modern metal sounds that’s just like these huge kick-drum triggers and shotgun snare reverb kind of thing that is sort of the direction of modern metal. We wanted something a little more timeless, and we realised pretty early on in order to achieve that we had to do something that was a little more organic. We wanted it to sound big and intense and heavy, but we didn’t want to sacrifice a lot of the dynamics of the drums – which is important to the band. The drumming is a big foundation especially to these new songs and I think Branden’s drumming is great on this album. He’s been pushing himself for years to improve as a drummer and I think he’s doing some unprecedented stuff in some of his drum choices and performances on this record. So we didn’t want to lose that.
I was reading that early on some label issues that came up. The label you were on basically got bought out by Warner Bros., right?
Yep, that’s almost exactly right. Warner Bros. had partnered with them and helped them at a certain point and something got weird with the business they were doing. I don’t know the exact details but at one point they just took control of the company. They got rid of most of the bands, except maybe three or four, and we were one of the bands they kept. We were kind of crippled by that, because these bigwigs at the major label were in control of our future, and what we did with our side projects. It was really impersonal. They didn’t really know what we were as a band, didn’t really care. Thought we had some credibility and it might be worth keeping us to make some sort of money, but not really committing anything to us. We ended up having to get lawyers on our team and spend some money and some time getting out of that, and that was another factor that contributed to the delay in getting this record underway. We didn’t want to do the sort of half-assed thing on someone else’s terms, and we decided we had to deal with that head-on before we could proceed.
Totally. When you did proceed, you took to crowdfunding for the record, using an Indiegogo campaign. What do you think about sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter and such?
I think it’s an awesome thing that we’re going to be seeing more and more of not just in music but other artforms. I think it’s because there’s less of this gap between the artist and the audience.
The bands have more control.
Exactly. The record label’s job has been to bridge that gap and be a promotion machine and fill that space in some functional way. I think, at least with bands that are established to a certain point, they have social networking and easier access to the internet and a smaller space that they have to cross to reach their audience. I’ve worked so much in direct correspondence with people that are funding this record. Having done this with Indiegogo, it feels like such a small distance. I think it’s a great thing because a label can definitely be helpful to building an audience for a band but it’s not such a helpful thing to a band as a business. They’re in it to make money of course as well. There are labels doing things that are credible and I don’t want to take that away from certain labels that have integrity, but I think there’s another model emerging here, and I’m not sure it’s going to stay at crowdfunding but I do think that things happening more directly between artists and audience is sort of the paradigm of the future.
It certainly seems to be the way things are going.
And I’m all for that, especially given the situation we were in with a major label and seeing the other side of that coin. Having access to Warner Bros.’ budget but seeing the limitations of that, I think it’s a really positive thing for an artist to be in control of their content and their decision making. I think you get a purer realisation of the band when they’re calling all the shots. I feel really fortunate that we did the record this way.
‘Absent Light’ is scheduled to be released in Australia on July 26 via UNFD.