Hot off the heels of cut-throat new single ‘Villain‘, The Gloom In The Corner are starting to turn over a new leaf; garnering larger traction lately and heading into 2019 armed with new material hot n’ ready to drop. Before the year ends, and before their single launch show at Melbourne’s Stay Gold this weekend, guitarist Matt Stylianos Stevens and frontman/lyricist Mikey Arthur open up about their latest track, what’s coming next, influences, and chatting at length about their conceptual ‘Section Dimension’ narrative. Enter our interview with the Sect members below:
Alex: In what ways would you say that the new line-up has impacted the songwriting and overall sound of TGITC? Are there any changes or surprises to come down the line?
Matt Stylianos Stevens [guitarist]: Mikey has always been the core creative force behind the music. While this is the case, all members of the band have input on every song we write. This may be on structure or compositional changes to our own or each others parts. Often Mikey and I will write together, we have both grown up being songwriters in our old bands so we tend to be on a similar wavelength. A driving force has been to write music that draws emotion from each member, so our performances can be tactile and passionate. We constantly talk about bands we like and music we find exciting which definitely spurs our own creativity.
Mikey Arthur [vocals]: I feel like it’s given us a bit more breathing space; as Matt said, I’m always sending through new songs or writing up little bits, though in the past a lot of it has mainly been Matt and I. With ‘Villain’ and the stuff planned for the future, everyone else has had a much bigger input, whether it be Nic [drums] completely rewriting my skeleton drums to Martin [guitarist] helping with structuring, even Paul [bass] – who’s only been in the band for a hot minute – has had input on certain things we may not have even thought of. I feel it’s awesome that everyone can have an input of some description.
Alex: With ‘Villain’, the song has more energy than usual; going through a few different sections in the process. While not quite my favourite Gloom track, it’s still up there! How have the responses been on your end for this new single? It kinda feels like you guys are turning over a new leaf in terms of attention lately.
Matt: The response has been unbelievable! We’ve received so much positivity in terms for the song and video. Over this past year we’ve playing more shows than ever with turnouts we’d only dreamed of. I like to think this is due to careful planning of our decisions but at the end of the day, we just try and do the best we can for the fans, so they keep supporting us.
Mikey: I’ve loved the response to the song so far. I was a little terrified about how this was going to go over with people and I’m so glad to see that people are enjoying it; whether it be from what the song means to people personally, or how they’ve welcomed in the next chapter of the Section Dimension.
Alex: What influence(s) would you say that Scottie Simpson from Alpha Wolf has had over new music in terms of sound and structure? Alpha Wolf comparisons are sure to be aplenty with this new song and the band moving forward. But there’s no way that you yourselves could deny those similarities, surely?
Matt: To be honest, the structure was completely written before we went to record with Scottie. I can see how we might be compared to them but our following releases are definitely quite diverse. Despite this, the comparisons are extremely flattering!
Mikey: I can see where there’s been the influence from Alpha Wolf in ‘Villain’ for sure, but I feel like that’s because (from me, as a writer) I wanted to kind of send off that old school “Fear Me” vibe that we had with a bang, and give our older fans a ‘final meal’ of that sound before we moved onto newer stuff. Because Alpha Wolf are doing so well at the moment and are very much in the “nu-metalcore” spotlight per say, I can very much understand why people draw the comparison, especially with Scottie producing the track. The way I see it is that, especially in this genre, it’s very easy for bands to be compared to other bands, and I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing; for example when I’m sharing bands with Matt or vice versa, we’ll always be drawing comparisons to other bands to give an idea of what it’s going to be like. Like we recently discovered Car Bomb from Long Island, NY – despite the fact that they’ve been around for YEARS – and the way I introduced it to Matt and Paul was “if Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan had a baby that beat you up”. I just see it as another way for people to share music with other people that they may like, and I think it’s great.
Alex: I think the people who bemoan genre-tags are the people who actually use them the most. Anyway, I really do get the feeling that both ‘Villain’ and this next release you’ve got cooking up have been in the pipeline for a long while now. Is that actually the case? How much re-working of songs and production does the band undertake for new material?
Matt: Earlier this year, ‘Villain’ was written in a very short space of time with 10+ revisions and restructures being sent to each other. At end of last year, Mikey and I wrote around 30 rough versions of new tracks. Some riffs and ideas have been siphoned into new material to be released next year. We are constantly writing new music and hence have a habit of re-writing songs the longer we sit on them.
Mikey: In summary, I lost a lot of sleep and RAM space over ‘Villain’. My PC still hasn’t recovered from that run. Funnily enough, ‘Villain’ was actually the last thing to be recorded along with the next release; we hadn’t originally planned on doing it but (at least I) felt like we needed to have a track that properly introduced the character on the track, Clara, before we went into the next release, as she didn’t get a song herself, and everyone else was happy to do it so we could have more time to properly plan the next release. All in all, I think it worked out pretty well! As for re-working of the songs and whatnot, we try to do as much of that as we can before we enter the studio so we can be as efficient as possible.
Alex: Do you feel the size of the conceptual Section Dimension narrative and it’s dense lyrical content may prevent some new listeners from being able to get into the music; feeling like they’ll have to brush themselves up on all past releases to understand what’s happening? You guys have released some decent catch-me-up texts lately, but do you think you’ll have to push that even harder in time?
Matt: We want to write tunes that are accessible to people who want some dynamic and heavy music. The we want the motivations, emotions and sometimes experiences the characters go through to be relatable. While reading into the story will enrich the experience of listening to our music, we do not want to alienate others uninterested in this. A long-term goal is the make it easy for people to experience the Gloom story through various content mediums. Netflix hasn’t contacted us yet but maybe next year [laughs].
Mikey: Yeah it’s always been on my mind, hence why we did those catch up documents and share around the articles which include story stuff as much as possible. However, I always try to write the songs from both a story standpoint and an emotional standpoint; weaving in the characters emotions into the lyrics so that listeners don’t necessarily have to be immediately hit with the story because, if you’re only just getting into us from ‘Villain’, boy oh boy have you got a lot to catch up on before the next release. As long as I can get Jackie Earle Haley to play [Fear Me’s antagonist] Stuart Thatcher in a live-adaption of the Section Dimension, then I can die happy.
Alex: Within the band, is it hard to keep up with the story as it grows, or are you all around it all nicely? These characters having alternate names and code names of sorts is a comic book staple, but surely it gets a little confusing sometimes?
Matt: Mikey and Nic [drums] are definitely the most involved in the story. I play a bit of catch up personally when we start creating music and videos.
Mikey: It most certainly can be, especially in the new stuff. I actually wrote up that catch-up document for Paul when he was first joining the band, so he had a clear outline, and I soon realised it’d probably be good for the fans to have it too. As far as code-names and whatnot go, a lot of them are pretty straight-forward and not too alternating. I always refer to Jay as ‘The Reaper’ or his dearly departed partner Rachel as ‘The Angel’, or Clara as ‘The Queen’. However the other character shown in ‘Villain’, the Devil of the Sect, has gotten a few nicknames, but that’s just because of his ‘reputation’ in the Section Dimension. His real name will be revealed soon, so sit tight.
Alex: I feel that ‘Villain’ did a decent job of balancing out both sides of the music video: both the narrative – showing this new perspective on certain side characters – as well as the band’s performance parts. Are there any ideas for solely story driven film clips anytime soon; where the five of you remove yourselves from the picture, so to speak?
Matt: Striking a balance between presenting us as a band and our story has always been and will continue to be a challenge. Creating purely story music videos would be very dependent on the song, but it’s definitely a possibility. I would absolutely love for the people interested in our story to have the ability to see our characters come to life, with feature length acting and dialogue. Currently we don’t have the budget or resources to make this kind of content but it’s definitely an aspiration.
Mikey: I would absolutely love to see that happen, for sure. We never really got to do it for ‘Fear Me’ and ‘Homecoming’ (besides ‘Witch Hunt’)… and I really wish we did. But as Matt said, it is purely dependant on the song and the context. I feel like maybe on the next record there’s maybe one or two we could think about doing it for, but it’s definitely an aspiration.
Alex: Similarly, how far are you guys planning to go in the music videos to really flesh this story out; to bring to life? What hurdles do you anticipate will come up with the visual side of things and what ideas have you maybe already scraped?
Matt: ‘How are we going to bring it all to life?’ – that could be at the centre of an A1 sheet of paper used to brainstorm. We plan to integrate story more each time we do a video. It’s hard to have a clear narrative when we only have 3 – 5 minute videos. We’re constantly posing and scrapping ideas, I think it would be interesting to have story content through clips, photos and promotional material around the release of video-clips, so we can explore the story further and cover themes the video may have only scratched the surface of.
Mikey: Yeah as Matt said, it’s difficult to cover a lot of story in only a 3-5 minute video, especially when you have to keep the viewer engaged. I actually wrote a script for fun for a music video for the new material and I estimated it to be around 20 minutes long, including all the story stuff – to be fair, that’s a pretty decently sized bit of the story – but I realised how it would be a struggle.
Alex: Mikey, you once told me that the Cowboy Bebop movie inspired you with your own characters. In what ways did those influences manifest in your eyes and what other anime/manga fuelled your own story?
Mikey: Oh yeah, for sure. But if we’re talking strictly anime’s, I’d probably say that really only Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and One Punch Man would play an influence; FMA for the supernatural elements and One Punch Man as a comparison for how powerful The Devil of the Sect is. However, when creating the whole dimension I took huge influence from comics, literature and films like Watchmen, Brooklyn’s Finest and Harry Potter and others. A lot of characters like Frank Castle [The Punisher] and Max Payne helped influence and shape Jay as a character, much like how Wilson Fisk [Kingpin] and Walter White helped influence Stuart Thatcher – I use those comparisons because they’re the most forefront in my mind after watching Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix. There are a lot of influences and characters that help shape up the characters in the Section Dimension. The appearance of TDoTS is a nod to Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant, a book series/character that played a huge part in building up the SD’s story too. Films/TV Shows like Homeland, Sicario, Body of Lies and Eye In The Sky showed me how organisations like the Central Intelligence Agency can operate when creating The Organization of Section 13, as did films like 13 Hours, Black Hawk Down and American Sniper help when creating Ethan’s world in Homecoming. I could go on for ages about where I’ve drawn influence from but there’s just so many that I could go on for hours [laughs]. Some are very subtle, some not so much. Though, that’s mostly intentional, so it gives people an instant idea.
Alex: With the overall story, what is the band’s attachment to these characters, both new and old? Do you all feel a sense of love or even protection over Jay and other recurring characters?
Matt: I love Jay as he’s got such a long history and really is the centre of the whole Gloom idea. Despite this, my favourite character is Ethan. Not only did I think we really found our stride with Homecoming as a release but I think Ethan is a well fleshed out character who seems very real.
Mikey: I love all the characters, especially all the ones that are a distorted reflection of the band members. Jay has been projected as the centrepiece of the Section Dimension for a long-long time, so I do hold a lot of love for him. But The Devil of the Sect is, for sure, my favourite character. I’ve been waiting for the right time to reveal him, and I’m glad we’ve finally started revealing him as a character. Nic’s character Yuri is a close second, though. And Clara, actually, just because of what she has gone/goes through.
Alex: Speaking of Jay, at the end of the ‘Villain’ video showed, he’s now back in the story. He’s always been a central player in this wider narrative; even the last EP was about his brother, Ethan. Do you think the story itself could survive without him once he’s killed off or simply exits the narrative? Do you think it would even matter if he lived or died in the story?
Matt: I think Jay will always be around in one way or another.
Mikey: Yes, Jay is very much back in the story now before we go down the Rabbit Hole/Hell. In this time in the story? No, despite the fact he’s again, more so on the background again. But there’s definitely room in the future for us to work around other characters, whether Jay was alive or not. Like, there are so many characters we can talk about, from other members of Echo Squad, to Jay’s great-grandfather in World War 2 – who was the Patient Zero for all of the Hardy bloodline getting their abilities. There’s so many characters, so much potential that if Jay ever really did make an exit, we wouldn’t be worried.
Alex: Lastly, I remember Nic and Mikey telling me back in 2017, that within minutes of ‘Fear Me’ releasing, it was already on a bunch of Russian and foreign torrent websites. So do you guys search out which sites are hosting downloads of new Gloom material, like on Kingdom Leaks? Is that a market – one mostly void of algorithms – that perhaps other smaller bands could utilise to get their art out there in some way if other avenues aren’t working out?
Matt: We don’t really search these sites out and they don’t affect us much. It’s pretty easy to pirate music from most sites, the people who pay for our music have told us they mainly do it to support us. These sites might not really help out smaller bands unless they have completely no way of listening to their music otherwise.
Mikey: As terrible as it is, I used to use Kingdom Leaks all the time before I had access to my savings account, so I do find it whack that our stuff is being recognised enough for it to be uploaded to those kinds of sites. I don’t think I actively search it out anymore, now that Spotify and iTunes actively drain my bank account, but it’s definitely cool to see. As for new and smaller bands to outsource it, I think it should be a case of: “don’t actively try to get it leaked there, but don’t be surprised if it happens”. At the end of the day, as long as people get to hear the music, that’s all that matters to me, because some people just don’t have the same access that we [Australians] do when it comes to music.
Catch The Gloom In The Corner launching ‘Villain’ at Melbourne’s Stay Gold this Saturday, December 1st.
Header PC: Jon Pisani.