Gallows don’t give a fuck about the mainstream or the visions and directions of their peers – not one single fuck. This has always been evident throughout their career, from the Frank Carter days of ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ and ‘Grey Britain’, to the Wade McNeil-era of ‘Death Is Birth’ and their self-titled album. Now, 2015 marks the ten-year anniversary of these hardcore nutters inception and, coincidentally, the release of their ripper of a new album, ‘Desolation Sounds’. We catch up with Gallows’ bearded guitarist, Laurent ‘Lags’ Bernard, to talk about the new album, his wicked beard, and his love of Converge’s ‘Jane Doe’.
Hey Lags, how are you?
Yeah, good man, how are you doing?
I’m fine, thank you. What have you been up to today?
Today…I’ve been to the National Gallery in London (laughs), so a pretty chilled out day.
(Laughs) too easy man, let’s get into it. With the tile of the record, was it named after the Canadian deep-water sound or because it almost seems to state that ‘Desolation Sounds like Gallows’? Or have I put too much thought into it?
Ah, you’ve got both of them right. Wade [McNeil, vocals] saw a sign for that body of water, Desolation Sound, in Canada and he attributed it to Desolation Sounds. Before we even started recording the album, he said, “If we do another record, I want it to be called this”. It didn’t really influence when making the album, but I feel like when everything was finished, that it fits it really well. And for a fourth album, Desolation Sounds is a fucking wicked title.
Definitely dude. The last couple album covers have all had very dark, grey, black and white covers – is that kind of a set theme for you guys now or is it just more spontaneous?
I was always in to weird, industrial gothic bands that had very uniform themes and uniform covers. When Wade joined the band, I thought it would be a good time to adopt that, and he was into that and so was the rest of the band. So that whole imagery comes from that dark, gothic industrial scene, and it may not be the most punk rock thing, but I think it suits Gallows really well.
I think when compared with your peers, those darker color schemes and themes, I like that. You mentioned in a recent interview with Subba –Culture that there was a lot more planned for the ‘Bonfire Season’ music video, and I was hoping you could go into a bit more detail about what was cut?
It was going to be a lot more Satanic (laughs). Basically, we had a few ideas that conjured up from 60’s, 70’s B-movie Satanic, dark worship movies. A lot of it was a bit extreme, and I don’t want to mention too much as I want to keep the mystery there. I remember getting the videos back and thinking “This is going to be awesome”. But our management wasn’t really sure that a lot of other people would play it or buy into it, so we figured we’d tone it down a little. I think it’s a really cool video. I feel like the images are really strong, and the characters are really strong. That was the main part of Bonfire Season, to have vivid images and very strong characters.
Did you receive much criticism for the videos in terms of their content?
I think that anything a band does will get YouTube commenters who are going to find something to bitch about. With music, you’ve gotta pitch your idea, and have the confidence to see it through to the end. That’s what we do with Gallows; we’ve never been shy with making music. We’re a very focused band and we do things how we want to do it. We have fans, obviously, but it’s up to them if they want to jump on ship, but I think a lot of their tastes develop with ours. Some will go “I don’t get it” or “It’s too fucking much”, and go onto something else, which is fine.
That’s the best thing about music. There’ll always be audience, and whether our audience changes or stays the same and there’ll be new people discovering Gallows, and it’s always evolving. If we had released the same fucking album over and over again, then I probably would’ve just given up music after Orchestra Of Wolves, if that was the case.
In the press lately, you guys seem to have this very confrontational approach to how you view and talk about the industry and other bands, even those in your genre, do you think that can be a good and a bad stance to take?
I do feel that Gallows was always a confrontational band, but I don’t think that anything I’ve said was out of place or out of hand. It’s just me seeing how I see it, and I’d rather be one of the artists who say what he thinks and is confident in his art. There are so many bands out there who say, “I’d like to thank so and so”, but the only people I have to thank is Wade, Stuart and Lee. They are my brothers in this, and essentially, this wouldn’t happen without them. We just need to make music that makes us happy, and that’s never going to change.
With Wade being in Black Lungs and with Alexisonfire being back together, and while it’s still uncertain how long that will be for and I assume you’re very excited for him, are you nervous about what those factors could mean for Gallows down the road?
Not at all. I’ve always thought of Gallows as a band who will always be there. I do music with other people, Stu manages bands, and what’s great about it is that we aren’t dependent on it anymore. I think when bands are so dependent on their music that they lose sight of the fun side. Once it becomes your job, you become over critical of it, and are afraid of trying new things in case people don’t like it. I think the fact that everyone has so much going on means that Gallows can just exist, and it can be there when we need, and long may it continue.
I read your piece on Team Rock about Converge’s ‘Jane Doe’. I love that record more than it is humanely possible to love music and when I first heard it I was just bewildered by it, but I was also completely hooked on it. So how were your first reactions upon hearing it for the first time?
Oh, definitely. I remember Converge coming to the U.K. before Jane Doe came out, and they always were a very extreme and heavy band. When Jane Doe came out, I was like “This is fucking crazy. How am I ever going to get into this?” It’s just an amazing record. It’s not something that you can get into over night, but once you get inside of that album, it’s fucking amazing. When I was writing about it, I hadn’t heard it in awhile, so I put it on and sure enough, still a fucking great album. You get that same feeling of exciting.
Oh, totally man. Whenever I put ‘Jane Doe’ back on I’m just like “Yep, still fucking awesome”.
(Laughs) yeah man.
Do you think that their later works lived up to it? Because I personally felt that while ‘Axe To Fall’ was awesome, ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’ was the closest they came to topping ‘Jane Doe’, would you agree?
Axe To Fall was great, but I think that Jane Doe really did shape their following records. There are a lot of songs that are quite similar and do similar things to Jane Doe. I’d hate to say that Converge have a template, but it almost set a template. I don’t know if they’d know it, but those styles get more and more developed on the following records, but I’d probably have to agree with you. I don’t listen to Converge as much as I used to as I see myself as a bit of an older dude who listens to Lana Del Ray. But yeah man, that band has been a huge inspiration to Gallows, and I think that all of their music is spot on.
Yeah, same here Lags. I recently saw that Frank [Carter] has announced a new band and is getting back into music. Have you guys kept in contact with him over the years and are you on good terms?
Frank actually texted me earlier this year, and talked about how much Grey Britain ripped. We do keep in contact, and I did go to see the last Pure Love show last year. I always say that if someone is happy to make the music they’re making, and if Frank’s happy doing what he’s doing, whether it be in Pure Love or his new band, then more power to him.
Finally mate… how does it feel knowing you have the best beard in the band?
(Laughs) yeah, that’s probably true man. It’s pretty funny, it [the beard] came back recently when someone said to me that they needed a model with a beard, get some pictures of me, and that I’ll get free haircuts. So I thought “Yep, that seems like the easiest way to get a regular haircut each month”. Next thing I know, I have companies all over the world sending me beard oils and stuff like that. Plus, my girlfriend won’t let me shave it, so I’m stuck with it now (laughs).
(Laughs) well, with that Lags I think we’ll have to leave it there so you can get onto the next one, thanks for your time.
Awesome, thanks dude, really appreciate it.
‘Desolation Sounds’ is out now through Venn Records/Double Cross Australia.