2015 really is the year of the Lion! Having recently signed to ABC’s imprint, Four Four Records, Born Lion have dropped their new album, ‘Final Words’. Amid the promo trail, we sat down with the band’s guitarist/vocalist, John, to discuss song writing, budget challenges and how it felt to play with The Hives.
Hey mate, how has your day been?
Just been at work – just had a meeting at a primary school.
How do you balance normal every-day life with supporting local and international bands?
I think that we do a pretty good job of it. I’ve got a pretty sweet job that’s pretty flexible, and I work my own hours as long as I get the job done. The rest of the guys have full time jobs which is tricky, and we push the employers to the limit. But it’s all good.
So have you had to turn down tours because of work?
Yeah, we have. We’ve had to turn down some pretty sweet things in the past, and that’s been based on the money coming from the tour not really being worthwhile. Trying to balance how awesome the tour is going to be versus how poor it’s going to make us and whether or not we will be destitute when we return. But there have been a couple of tours where you kind of kick yourself that you weren’t able to do. In saying that, we’ve done some awesome things.
With the upcoming Yellowcard and Mayday Parade tour, there are some massive venues. How are you going to adapt your stage show from playing a hotel bar to playing a venue like Hordern Pavilion?
It’s always weird. We’ve done a couple of shows on bigger stages and we have to change what we do a bit. We play the same we would, but, for us, the best place to play is the floor, with people like one metre from us. That’s where it feels the best. When we toured with Karnivool, that was our introduction to those sorts of stages where there is the big gap and then the barricade before the audience. It’s different and psychologically you have to stay in it a lot more than when you play little venues. It’s just like a party when you play at the pub or whatever. It takes a couple of shows to warm up really.
When you play with bands like The Hives and the Bronx, do you think the music translated well in those settings?
Yeah, I think it’s just a case of where we are at. We’ve come up playing all the small venues, and it works really well there. We haven’t had heaps of experience playing on [those] bigger stages [but] that’s the same for a lot of bands; once they get to that stage and start adapting their show for a bigger range of people. So in that aspect we are still getting there. Some people love it, but it comes downs to experience and changing it up.
When you play with those kinds of bands, what has the group personally taken away?
Definitely playing with bands like The Bronx and The Hives you can just see how fucking good people can be at commanding an audience. Both those bands in particular…The Hives was just the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen from the side of stage. They had the audience in the palm of their hand. There was no moment where they lost the crowd at any point. Same with The Bronx, they are just so captivating out there and amongst the people. They just force the audience to have a good time. That’s just showmanship and that’s the kind of stuff we have learnt I guess.
How have the bands musical influences changed since you started?
They have changed a fair bit. The guitarist and I have been playing together in bands for a long, long time. Born Lion has been around for three years now. Before that, we played in other bands. I guess we have got heaps more punk influences coming through. Before we were sort of doing a rock revival sort of thing. More into bands like You Am I – rock and roll stuff. I guess we discovered bands like The Hives and Hot Snakes; they helped us find a voice. A lot of bands find that a lot younger than we did, but the place we are at now, we want to find our own personality and identity within punk. I think earlier on we had heaps of ideas, and then we would try and fit them all into a song, so the song would be like four and a half minutes, and have these crazy breakdowns and this big extended ending section and shit. One day we just decided, “Fuck it, fuck all that stuff, [let’s] just make it straight forward and cut all the shit out and make the song right.” In effect, the songs have become really short, and just loud and screamy.
You see a band that releases an album that maintains the same motif over the years, and then you see bands that try and do something new each record. Does Born Lion want to continue down their current musical path?
It’s kind of hard to say at the moment. My mind changes all the time. At the moment, I’m thinking we should stick at what we are doing and get better at it, and then maybe think about changing it. We haven’t mastered what we are doing right now. There’s always ways we can develop the song writing, make better songs and better lyrics and stuff. ‘Break the Curse’, that was the last song we wrote for the album, and, for me, that sounds different from the rest of the album. It’s less straight ahead. If that’s the change that is happening, then maybe that’s where we are going.
When you say you want to develop the song-writing, what process do you currently go through?
I play heaps of guitars at home, and I’ll come up generally with like a riff and a vocal melody. Usually it’s just a verse or a chorus part or something. I try to get at least a few lyrics down, so it can be conceptualised a bit. Then [we go] into rehearsal and it generally just completely changes once the other guys get into it. The drums get particularly changed with how it sounds. Everyone chucks ideas into the pot and the song will change a whole bunch. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of things and I’ll get attached to some bits. We record every rehearsal so I just listen to that to make sure it’s going the right way, and then we all come up with a bridge as a collective. I don’t come up with a bridge.
When you listen to music, what do you reckon the most important aspect of the tune is?
Lyrics have to be good. A shit lyric can really ruin a song. People singing about really specific things can be really crap [and] generally a bit off putting. People could be like, “I used a washing machine” over and over. It could be the sickest riff in the world but the lyrics are really distracting. That’s important as well, it’s a whole package. I guess the way we operate is that we write good music and the lyrical content comes from the music. The music influences the lyrics. If something sounds really hectic and full on, you’re going to write about something really hectic, or doing something full on.
Nah, I don’t think so. D for Danger was because we had no money and we wanted a video clip. I had heaps of motivation to make one, so I learnt how to use an animation program, and I spent literally about 300 hours working on that video clip. Literally every spare minute I had was like doing another drawing or set of animations for it. Just to get something together to put out there. With Break the Curse, we wanted a different clip and had money to do it, and a plan and a person to go with but it all fell through. So we were in this position where we needed a video clip, so we went to this site called Genero and they film different films on this site. We found something on there that we thought would suit the song, and they sort of re-edited it to suit the song.
Do you think video clips are still relevant?
They seem to be a pretty good promotional tool. It can be a good way to engage with the band and see who they are. Maybe get a sense of the personality and who they are. Making a brand for that band. Gay Paris, I find their film clips really entertaining. You get a real idea of what the band is about through a visual medium.
What message would Born Lion be communicating?
I think a sense of taking the piss out of things and not too seriously. That’s what we try to do, and the balance of that and what we can produce with what money we have. Most of us try not to be too serious.
You guys have been working with Four Four Records. How has that been?
It’s been great; they are a really good label to work with. The guy who runs it, Baz, is just a cool guy. He is really down to earth and has liked the band for a long time. It took us ages to settle with them, and he was really loyal that whole time. There was no pressure or anything. But he just genuinely likes the band, he thinks we are good and even if we didn’t go with Four Four he would still come to our shows and be a part of it. So it’s been really great. Being through ABC is also less daunting than someone like Epitaph. It’s pretty chill, which is good for us. They are willing to work with us and what we are able to do. A bigger label would be the big high expectations like, ‘You need to do a big 6 month U.S tour now.’ A bit more cut throat.
‘Final Words’ is out now. Catch the band on tour this August – October.