So, originally, I was meant to chat with Isaac Lamb, the drummer for Kublai Khan for a short interview the other week. But when vocalist Matt Honeycutt answers the phone stating that Isaac gave him this phone to do the interviews instead, I changed up my questions on the fly as the physically intimidating yet actually soft-spoken vocalist and I got into topics about Australia, new album ‘Nomad’, Rise Records, and being trapped in your scene, and more. Check it:
So not-Isaac/Matt, what are you guys up to right now?
I’m just outside the venue right now, we’re playing in Tampa tonight. And man, it looks there’s gonna be another big ass storm tonight. So the winds blowing like crazy.
Ah shit, that sucks man. Hurricane or not, the connection is pretty clear, thankfully. I actually have an old partner of mine who lives in Florida and she said it’s still pretty crazy over there weather wise.
Yeah, it really depends on where you are in the state. Even down in Houston, there was a lot of flooding. In U.S. history, it was the most financial damage caused by a natural disaster. Florida just got hit and they’re about to be hit again. Hurricane season has been really tough this year.
Well, living in Australia, I’m glad I live in Australia in that regard.
Yeah, we’re in the Fall right now. Hurricane’s are the worst. I don’t actually get many as I live in Northern Texas but it’s still bad. There are more tornadoes where we live instead.
Still, that’s hectic. Anyway, the last time you guys were was last December and you’re coming back this December with The Acacia Strain. Did you expect to come back so damn soon?
Nah, not at all, man. We didn’t expect it, but we’re thankful we’re doing it as it’s a year on the dot. Australia was a place we’ve really grown to love. We were so well received from the first date and the fact we got invited back so soon is an honour.
Of course! That tour last year was heavy as fuck – there was you, Graves, Justice For The Damned and Cursed Earth. Now this one with Acacia is gonna be just as nuts. But is that something that your band aims for, getting on tours with other really heavy bands? Or would you prefer to do more mixed shows?
Well, we’ve done a lot of tours where were the odd band out. It can either work really or not do you any favours. We came to the conclusion that after a few tours like that, we just wanna stick to heavy bills. At the end of the day, we have to play to the people who really wanna hear us as that’s how we can keep doing this. If we take too many leaps and have too many unsuccessful tours to crowds that aren’t into our sound, it might be damaging.
Maybe better not to take the risk then. Just playing to your market can work really well, though. And in terms of that, both ‘New Strength’ and ‘Nomad’ are very similar records. But I will say that the latter is the far better record; ‘Nomad’ is just a beefier, shredded, more consistent version of your debut. I spoke with Vincent Bennett the other day and he said that Acacia Strain will basically be the same band forever, as that’s who they are as a group. Is that the same plan for you guys?
Dude, we’ve always had the same sound and that’s the only thing that has kept us moving in the long run. As far as us having our sound, people got attracted to it, so we’re pushing off that same sound for each record. Every album we’ll do will be 100% us – you’ll know right away that it’s a Kublai Khan record.
But in the attempt to make each record that little bit better?
When you dropped ‘The Hammer’ I got way more excited about this new record than I ever did for your debut. I think it was because these songs are just angrier, larger-sounding takes on your past material. And what factors, personal or otherwise, do you think guided that stronger sound?
I think a lot of it came down to us being way better prepared. When we did ‘New Strength’, the label we were on was in turmoil as the guy who ran it left and we had to rush the album out. Things didn’t really work out as well as we had hoped. For this record, before we’d even signed with anybody else, we did it ourselves and took our time. As we didn’t know how we were going to put it out and market it. This album could’ve been a great chance or it could have been the end for us, but we took that leap. Rise Records were really into it and that was a bigger opportunity than we’d ever hoped for. I think it worked out. There was a lot of personal stuff that went on this record, like changes in our lives and us growing up. But for the most part, it is what it is.
With the Rise Records signing, that was a great move I first thought when that news first broke; a position that will put you in front of a lot of new ears. But one thing I found funny was the people lamenting that you’d have clean vocals now because you were on Rise Records.
When you look at every label, they’ve got their showcase bands. They’ve got the bands that people associate their sound with the label. A lot of people were saying that we’d change a lot of our shit now. But no, they wanted us because of the sound we already had and they haven’t done anything to try and convince us on how our music should sound. It’s just people talking like they think they know too much when they actually don’t. They don’t understand how it all works. It’s just people talking for no reason. That may be a harsh take on it, though…
No, I don’t think it’s harsh at all. Someone in my position, I find that it really pays to listen at the right time, as you’ll learn way more than when you’re not talking [laughs].
That being said, one track that does have clean vocals is the record’s last song, ‘River Walker’, which is a really cool track to end the album on. It’s got way more space and dynamic to it and is just a really great closing song.
Yeah! It’s funny, that song is actually just a few riffs taken from another song that our guitar player and I had a slower, doomy band on the side that never got off its feet. Literally, it was just a few songs. We figured that it’d be tight to close the album with one of those tracks, so we mashed some of the guitars together and I threw the cleans over it. We always want to end an album with something different than just having another breakdown. Putting that as a closer, that’s one of my top three favourite songs on the new record. We may catch a little bit of heat for it but at the same time, everyone wants to do what they want and if you play to what people think they want from you, you’re cutting your feet out from under you. You gotta push your own boundaries and push your own sound.
Agreed, and ‘River Walker’ is one of my faves from the new album. I actually spoke with Keiran from Cursed Earth last week, and the last song on their album ‘Cycles Of Grief’ – ‘External’ – is a lot like the closer on your album. Just a weird coincidence, I noticed.
Hell yeah, he’s my man! And that’s another thing, so many people want to push the boundaries if their sound. In the hardcore and metalcore scene, there are certain things you have to do; certain crowds you have to appeal to. And a lot of bands wanna break that and if we don’t do that, we’ll just the get the same recycled bullshit over and over. I think it’s a really exciting time in hardcore right now.
I think so too. Vein are doing some really cool shit and Employed To Serve slayed it this year with their new record too.
Yeah, I love it man! I’m just glad that people are trying to push themselves and push the boundaries of what is acceptable in our scene musically.
And I take it that’s something that your band will maybe try to do moving forward where possible?
For sure. No one knows what we or our peers are gonna do next, really. It’s a very cool situation that we’ve all gotten ourselves into.
Couldn’t agree more, there be some exciting times for hardcore! Anyway, I’m gonna let you get back inside that venue and out of the cold, cheers for talking with me Matt! Hope your Aussie tour goes smoothly dude.
Thank you for the kindness, I really appreciate it. Take care Alex!
Read my review of ‘Nomad’ here. All dates and info for their tour with TAS below:
Mon 4th Dec: The Brightside, Brisbane 18+
Tue 5th Dec: The Small Ballroom, Newcastle 18+
Wed 6th Dec: Factory Theatre, Sydney Lic/AA