They’re like something right out of your mother’s worst nightmares with their tattoos, piercings, eyeliner and “devilish” music but that doesn’t stop them from being one of the most beloved and followed bands in the alternative, heavy music scene of late. Motionless in White, who just dropped album number four, ‘Graveyard Shift’, has gone from strength to strength every record. They’ve cracked high into mainstream charting positions, sold out tours and shows around the world and when I caught up with guitarist Ricky “Horror” Olson backstage at Melbourne’s 170 Russell, they were on the tail-end of their very first Australian headline tour. He and I talked about their fans, The Amity Affliction, producers, writing, the pressure of coming off a Top 10 album, and more – suss it!
So, Ricky, the tour seems to have been going, by all accounts, really well! Apparently, it’s been really loud, really big and a lot of fun for you guys.
Yeah, it has! I think we were unsure of what to expect for our first Australian headliner. So having people who saw us at Soundwave or on The Amity Affliction tour a few years ago come back and see us here has been amazing. It’s been loud, energetic and awesome!
You guys are heading back out to America next week and The Amity Affliction, who you supported on their arena dates are now gonna support you! That’s a pretty awesome turn of the tables.
It’s an interesting thing for sure because you get to see the hierarchy each country has for their bands. I’m not sure how much Amity have toured the States but I know we’ve done so extensively. It’s really nice to do that with and for a band to come to their country and they take us out on tour to their open arm fans and then they can come to the States and we can do the same.
It’s definitely common but I think welcome practice. Share the love.
And this tour you’re doing now down here is actually the first leg of the whole ‘Graveyard Shift’ World Tour. I’m interested, and maybe you can or can’t answer this but was the choice to do Australia first a scheduling one, or a personal one?
I can’t say as far as scheduling goes. We just knew we wanted to come back and it worked out that this was the perfect time to do that. We would love to go do this tour in every country in the world but that’s just not feasible. We really wanted to make it a priority to come to Australia and see all the fans, new and old, we haven’t seen since the last time we where here around two years ago.
Well, it seems like you chose a good place to start. You guys have been tweeting a lot about how much you’re loving this tour and one that caught my eye was Chris [‘Motionless’] tweeted about the sing-alongs being the biggest you’ve had. It got me thinking, does that stuff impact how you write your records? I know it might be too soon to ask but does the live setting influence your writing process currently?
I don’t know if that particular thing influences the music as far as writing goes. When it happens we know that parts could be sing-alongs or whatever but we don’t go into write stuff that could be on purpose. It’s definitely not “sit down and write a sing-along”. It’s never forced or determined.
You do have a very dedicated and devoted fan base and I wanted to ask about them. Do you ever see or notice competition within the fan groups over who is a better fan? ‘Cause I see that a lot in say, Taylor Swift or One Direction communities and wanted to know if you as an artist bear witness to it at all?
I think that stuff happens for all fan bases. Ours in particular are… I don’t want to say crazy ‘cause that can be negative but like, crazy in a good way…
Yes! They’re very passionate! From what I see it does seem that the fans aren’t really concerned with who’s the best fan but more so who’s the true fan. A “true fan” wouldn’t do that or this and what not. It’s all bullshit. Who cares? If you like the music you’re a fan. It doesn’t matter in the end. A lot of it comes from social media and that’s the part of it I don’t like. Everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks their opinion is better than anyone else’s. Why can’t you just enjoy the music, the bands, the movies or whatever?
That’s very true actually and the thing I always see is: “If you were a true fan you wouldn’t mind them changing” which is a bit illogical.
Yeah that’s the thing. If you make the same record then people are mad you didn’t change but if you change then people are mad you changed. You can’t win! So at one point, you have to just do what you want and hope people like it.
So you guys had a bit of pressure coming into this record as ‘Reincarnate’ did really well on the charts and critically and I’ve seen quotes that say you guys felt you had to write a “better” album. Now, this is probably a weird question and I’ll take the blame if it throws you a bit but what does that mean to you? How do you go about writing a “better” album, like what’s the first step in that process?
Well, that is hard to answer I guess. It’s something I think you just know. When we were writing for ‘Graveyard Shift’ we had some songs that we felt were the best things we’ve ever written so in that sense we knew it was going to be better than before. But it’s hard to know. With your taste changing and you taking a different direction and feeling things out creatively, doing that stuff is beneficial in the right places and for you as an artist. I’m not too sure how to answer that fully sorry, as music is something that is just based off how you feel. It was one of those things that I noticed that our taste changes and you try and write in different styles. It’s something that you just know and you feel. It’s innate.
So you guys do feel like you achieved what you set out to?
Oh yeah! I mean, it’s all subjective. That’s just from our point of view and there are probably fans that like other records better but I think as musicians and creative people the work and everything that came out this record is bigger and better than before. At least from a musicianship standpoint. I think you can really hear it and it’s almost like a different band of people. It sounds like adults writing music, not kids trying to write like adults.
So what stage was the record at when you shifted labels; was it done, demoed, pre-pro or still being written?
The album was pretty much done before we switched labels. Usually, the way we write is that we have everything almost done before we go in the studio and tracking things out and changing a few things. And what usually needs to be changed is just chorus chords or stuff that can help the vocal melodies flow well. So the album was pretty my done, yeah. Roadrunner never had any input really or said stuff like “You have to make music like this”. It was weird though seeing a couple comments online saying “Roadrunner changed them!” But this record was done before that happened! They’ve been great in letting us be creative and do what we want and pretty much said, “do you!”
This was the band’s first time being produced by Drew Fulk, who has quite the resume of bands under his name, I’m interested what his involvement was like on ‘Graveyard Shift’?
Well, actually we’ve had a prior relationship with Drew. He came in and helped write some stuff even as far back as ‘Infamous’. He would come in and just give his creative insight to songs. He was also involved in ‘Reincarnate’ so it made sense to bring him in for this one. He gets the band, we get along with him and he’s good friends with people at our label and it all just kind of came together.
Interestingly, you guys actually change producers a lot more than other bands in your genre who would stay with the same one for three records then shift. I’m curious on your philosophy behind that, though from what you just said, it doesn’t sound like you’re sifting through people and more so changing emphasis on the team behind the music.
Yes, exactly! I don’t even know if I could put it better than that ‘cause that statement is great in itself! I think that every time we write an album, based on other people we work with we work out who gets it, who doesn’t and who we get along with and who meshes well with our writing style. There was actually a producer, I won’t say who, that Chris flew out to test the waters with for a few days and it just did not work with. They did not get along at all and Chris just said we’re not doing that so we got Drew in and worked out really well. It’s more of, who we mesh with instead of who has the best resume. We don’t really care about people’s past experiences if they get what we’re trying to do and are passionate about doing something different and trying every avenue that that’s what we want. We want what’s best for the band.
That’s fantastic to hear! One last thing that sort of ties into that ideology, I wanted to ask about the album art competition you guys held. Rather than go with someone who had a great website or credentials, you put it out to your fans, who know and love you guys, to design an artwork and you’d pick the best one. Was it pretty unanimous the choice or was there a debate between yourselves over which one to pick?
Well for the submission thing, there was about two-thousand entries. Chris went through every single one and he picked the best fifty out of that and forwarded them to us. There ended up being about two that we all liked and thought were the best. There was a cool one that looked like a typical metal cover that I thought suited us, and then the one we ended up picking. We all ended up choosing it because it was more the striking of the two. It was more recognisable. Chris reached out and spoke with the woman who photographed the image about its meaning and it really fitted with our whole ideas about ‘Graveyard Shift’ and what I meant in terms of work ethic and what not.
Brilliant, man! Well, Ricky, thank you so much, for taking the time to sit with me, I really appreciate it. Hope you have a great show tonight and the rest of the tour goes well!
Thank you so much, Matty yourself. I really appreciate it!
‘Graveyard Shift’ is out now through Roadrunner Records. You can check out the photo gallery from Motionless in White’s Adelaide stopover on this tour here.