As one of the most interesting artists in recent Australian metal, Make Them Suffer have found sustained success since their breakout debut album; 2012’s Neverbloom. Their upcoming release ‘Old Souls’ is a strong leap forward for the Perth natives, and Killyourstereo.com had the opportunity to interview frontman Sean Harmanis about the album.
Hey Sean, how are you today?
Good dude, how are you?
Excellent. So where are you at the moment?
Just chilling in my backyard at the moment actually, just watching a bit of basketball with my friends.
Living the rockstar life then. You recently posted a stream of Old Souls – was that in response to anything?
We just wanted people to hear the album before they have to spend any money, really. People are going to download it illegally anyway. I guess it’s our philosophy if people want to support the band, and they like it they’ll buy the album anyway. So we just wanted people to hear it in its entirety before making that decision to support us.
On the piracy note, are you all right with torrenting and things of that nature if that means more people will listen to it?
Oh absolutely. If people want to torrent it or anything that’s fine, but – if you are a fan of our music – on the musician side of things, it always helps out when people buy merch or come to a show. I feel like live music is dying in general, especially with the local scenes. People only really come to the big gigs these days comparatively to what it was five or six years ago. If people want to support us by other means that’s great, but I’m not going to go make someone go out and buy our album. To be honest, I download music as well.
Saying people don’t go to as many shows any more, what do you think is the reason for that?
I feel like metalcore and that sort of extended genre is a little bit done now compared to when Parkway and Prom Queen were playing to 200 kids in HQ in Perth. It’s a bit of a different scene now and it’s really hard for people to come up with an original sound and to really stick out. I think people are saving their money for the larger gigs to be honest. But it is important for people to support artists or otherwise you’ll be listening to the same bands and not giving younger acts the opportunity to thrive and make money. Especially these days because it feels like as the scene has evolved and grown, these tiny bands who are drawing 100 people at a show need a music video for success. Unfortunately that’s just a whole lot of money for bands who are making hardly anything.
The band have fairly detailed video clips, do you have that in mind when you’re putting out a song?
Yeah, we’ve been working pretty closely with Jason Eshragian for our last three music videos and there’s one being released this week. We really liked his work on Saviour’s ‘Jaded’ video clip and the storyline he did with that. So we’ve been working in close quarters with him on what we want the storyline to be. Ultimately, I think a music video – especially the way things are going these days – everyone needs visual stimulation and demanding better quality. Usually the better quality the video is, the better chance you have of showing off your band I guess.
When you released ‘Let Me In’ – I personally love the song – but there was a lot of backlash to it. Were you worried that might have turned your fanbase against you?
We were expecting a really negative response when we put up that song. But I guess our view to the song was that it was great to have the more elitist metal fans kind of shaking in their boots as to what would come next. Then almost six months later, the next song we put up off of Old Souls has been ‘Requiem’ which is more Neverbloom-y and more like the Make Them Suffer sound. I guess that’s kind of calmed people down, but to be honest the album’s a real mixed bag. We were just preparing people for that when we released ‘Let Me In’. By itself it doesn’t really make sense but when you listen to the album in its entirety, it kind of fills in the gaps and makes it more cohesive as a unified package.
During the recording of ‘Requiem’, did you intentionally make it not have any breakdowns and have everyone worrying, then drop it right at the end?
I think we just really wanted to step up the elements that made Make Them Suffer more unique than other bands. We wanted to speed things up to be honest. On ‘Neverbloom’ the fastest we hit was about 220 BPM on the blast beats, whereas ‘Requiem’ is about 250 BPM with the intro section that’s full on blasting pretty much. I guess we wanted to pay homage to more extreme metal bands we were listening to when we first started getting the sound together. We were listening to bands like Belphegor and Dark Funeral, which were just unrelenting and had full on blast beats. So we just wanted to put out a song that was down the more traditional MTS path I suppose.
Those sorts of bands are really fast paced, but then you have your keyboardist Louisa’s clean vocals as well; do you think that’s what mainly sets you apart?
I feel like that’s not the only thing that would set us apart, but I feel like that’s another thing that does. It’s one of many things that would set us apart. Personally, I think with symphonic deathcore, you couldn’t really compare us to Fleshgod Apocalypse or Betraying The Martyrs; we all have our own take on how that sound’s going to come out. It’s just an extra thing that we can kind of look at and adopt a slight gothic feel and Evanescence-y feel that makes us a little bit different. But I wouldn’t say it’s the main thing that separates us.
The opening of ‘Widower’, you know straight away that it’s Make Them Suffer, so what do you start off with when you write a song?
It’s all pretty different actually. With this album, we’ve given our guitarist Nick McLernon – who had virtually no input on Neverbloom – a chance for some of his songs to come out. Lachlan Monty is another recent addition to the lineup and he’s had a track on the album as well, which is really cool. I think all up there’s just a bit more contribution from the other members of the band; beforehand it was just our bassist Chris. On a song like ‘Widower’ that piano line was pretty much just a catchy hook. Chris basically just thought of that in his head and thought it’d be really catchy, then the song just formulated around that. A lot of the writing is done in Chris’ head, and then we’ll take it to something like Guitar Pro and then we’ll do demo recordings.
You’re from Western Australia, so do you think it’s the hardest place in Australia to make it as a band?
If it’s not WA, I know it’s really tough for Tasmanian bands to get out of that scene as well. When we first dropped Neverbloom, other bands like Northlane and In Hearts Wake, who came out at the same time, had more opportunities. Not necessarily big tours, but just to do a couple of shows along the coast for a quick cash grab to pay for your next line of merch or something like that. Having to pay $2000 right off the bat for flights when you want to go over definitely makes things a lot harder.
You’ve got a huge support base in the eastern states, are you at the point where you’re expecting success every time you head over?
It’s been three years since we released Neverbloom, and towards the end of the cycle we really weren’t doing too much. There was probably a good 10 month gap between Northlane’s Free Your Mind tour and doing our next tour, which was a club run of shows. Certainly the time we’ve taken to organise things on our end and to get the funds to be able to pay for the album has helped a lot. When we went on that last tour, it’s not like there was a massive difference in tour numbers, but I feel if we were hitting the east coast more regularly we would’ve seen better turn outs. But I guess that’s just part of it and we had to take that time to sort out what direction we wanted to go in for the album. On the management side as well, we’ve had some changes that we’re really happy with and that took up a lot of organising time.
During the Old Souls tour are you going to have a mixture of old and new songs, from Lord of Woe to the new album?
Honestly, we want to have quite a few songs to pick and choose from. We’re probably going to be able to play more stuff off the new album – 60/40 off the new album – which is simply because a lot of our older songs are really long and take up a lot of time in the setlist. For one seven minute old song, you could get two songs from Old Souls in that amount of time. So I guess it’s definitely a juggling act but along that idea, maybe the all ages shows will have a slightly different setlist? In terms of set time, it’ll probably even out to be honest.
You have drastically reduced the amount of time your songs go for, was that a learning experience from being in the band for a while?
Because this album isn’t as conceptually driven as Neverbloom and doesn’t have as strong a theme, we’re just writing on the concept of day-to-day life. So it doesn’t really need that storyline that songs on Neverbloom had that are telling a full on story. I think it just works more cohesively for the songs we’re putting out now, and it’s more of a tight knit package that people can just get into. I read a lot of comments on our longer songs from people that said our songs don’t need to be that long. So, while I think it’s cool that our old songs were that long, and we’re really happy that those songs are that length, we’re just happy to try different things at this point.
You can read our review of ‘Old Souls’ here – out May 29 via Roadrunner Australia.