After having Melbourne’s Young Lions and pop-punks Set The Score ushering in the first two Aussie Features of 2015, and, equally, after having our farewell feature on Prepared Like A Bride, it seemed the natural progression was to go even heavier. So, this time we explored the other end of the spectrum with one of the heaviest bands going in Australia right now: I, Valiance.
Killyourstereo.com spoke with lead guitarist Krys Smith ahead of their tour with Black Tongue and Make Them Suffer.
So, first order of business – has the band managed to track down a new pair of lungs to fill the shoes of Mark Poida (now in Aversions Crown)? As expected, a lot of it is still under wraps, but Smith (pictured second from the left) did reveal the band knows who they want for the job. “Well, I can’t say too much…but we’ve planned it out pretty well. We’re happy with the situation at the moment, I think we’re ready to decide who we’re after and we do know who we’re after. So there will be some announcements coming within the next couple of months”.
Of course, it will only be I, Valiance as long as this new vocalist can contort their voice in a similar way that Poida could (he and the group are still on good terms by the by), which, let’s face it, is a big part of the band’s sound after all. Yet, the guitarist kindly laughs this off. “Well, I can’t say too much, but he definitely can, he really can. [However] It’s not about trying to do exactly what Mark did, because that’s not what we want to do now, we want him to do his own thing. We wanted to find someone who fitted in with us as friends first, and then he just happened to have a good voice”.
Smith also lets on that the local boys will be striving harder than ever before, and there were never any plans to break-up following the vocalist’s departure. That’s a godsend really, considering their latest EP, ‘The Reject of Humanity’ is one of the weirdest, yet crushing releases to come out of the local scene in recent years (well, save for the last Boris The Blade album of course – that shit was off its tits!).
“We are all really close as people, so we were never going to break up. We have just continued on as if nothing has happened, it’s just a little bump in the road for us that will enable us to grow and learn; to push ourselves harder, and is a good incentive”.
Some have already suggested that the band releasing an instrumental version of their EP was solely to find a new vocalist, but Smith reveals that was actually purely coincidental.
“When we first did the EP, the boys and I talked about releasing an instrumental of ‘Throne To Belial’ at first, as it’s one of those songs that it can work as an instrumental, as it’s so over the place. It was only then a thought [came] that we would also get auditions back, and then we could go about finding the right person”.
While the new vocalist will elude those outside of the inner circle of I, Valiance, one thing everybody knows is the frontman they secured for this year’s Soundwave. For the past few months, the band has had their friends and peers fill out the vocal position for their shows, with, most notably, Rheese Peters from A Night In Texas performing at the Melbourne leg of Soundwave.
That meant this…
…on the main stage at noon in front of hundreds of early patrons. Smith humbly recalls the experience.
“That was really full on. I did not expect that at all. When we were sound checking, there was a good 10 or so lines of people, and that in itself was daunting, but when we went on the place was just packed out. It was scary, but very cool. Rheese did a great job too. He got super nervous beforehand and practiced so much that his voice was kinda gone before we went on stage. He’s a really good dude, and we knew that we would do it, and he smashed it”.
As for winning triple j’s Unearthed Competition and the subsequent performance at Soundwave, Smith and drummer Gabe Houben also made an appearance on the radio station around the time of the festival, with their music even played on a daytime slot; not usually reserved for this kind of music. Now, let’s be clear, these guys aren’t poppy or mainstream, shit, they don’t even really fit into the mainstream area of metal either.
“It was definitely weird, especially when they played us during the day time. We thought that was hilarious. Some of the comments we got back were so funny. One guy commented, saying, “You’re driving customers away from our business!” which I think is the funniest thing that I’ve ever heard!
Smith is at pains to compliment the radio station. “Right before we played the festival, we walked into the booth, and the DJ called up Lochlan Watt in Sydney and had him on the line, and it was just a cool experience. That dude [Watt] is a legend and he and triple j have supported us a lot. They don’t give a shit about that stuff, they just played us and didn’t care”.
Now, as mentioned, this feature is to coincide with the band supporting US down-tempo heavyweights Black Tongue, and our very own black/death metallers, Make Them Suffer (pssssst – it starts later this week!). As for preparation, Smith states that the band is keeping their chops up and practicing extensively at the moment with a fill-in vocalist.
“We got Simon Kupier, from The Despot, fill in for the last three or four shows, and we’re looking at having him do the tour for us, as he knocked it out of the park. In terms of a permanent vocalist, we don’t want to debut him on a tour or at a show. In terms of the tour, we’re very keen, especially because of Make Them Suffer. We did our first couple Perth runs with them, and then there’s Black Tongue, which is going to be insane, mainly just for those crowd reactions”.
Well that’s fair enough, and there’s a good chance that people will die in the mosh for Black Tongue. Pro-tip – don’t take your eyes off the pit if you’re right next to it. Smith also states that the outfit has been writing some new material, and that the announcement of a new vocalist could also tie in with a few other things.
“We’ve been writing a whole lot lately. We want to step out of our shell and re-assure people that we’re not really that much of a different band without Mark. It’s also been really nice to see people come out and not really care that Mark’s not there, because there’s not many bands that can have that; have fans who are that supportive of change”.
Chances are that if you’re reading this then you’re of the opinion that metal, and heavy music in general is welcoming; well it’s meant to be welcoming, at least. Earlier this year there were some unsavoury patrons who were causing serious trouble by trying to pick starts fight with fans at a show. Following the gig and the band’s status on it, people on Facebook were calling for the troublemakers to be banned from any and all of the band’s gigs, banned from those particular venues, or from those shows run by that promoter on the day. Now, is that a bit extreme? Perhaps, but Smith definitely thinks that it’s the right way to go when dealing with dick heads of this ilk.
“I think that was the right thing to do, one hundred percent. Anyone who comes out to shows to pick on kids is a fucking idiot. It’s a horrible thing to come to a show where people are trying to let off some tension and anger, and for someone to come start fights is the worst thing. We’re meant to be in a safe place, in a community were we support each other”.
“They [the culprits] weren’t trying to start a fight during our set, but they were giving shit to the kids during the set, and then afterwards they stole someone’s phone, left the venue and then said, “You can have it back if you throw a punch”. They were intentionally out to start a fight, and if we see those people again at one of our shows, we’ll have them removed. It’s just not the thing we want to see, ever. It’s just not cool. I’ve never seen anything like that before, as there was almost 20 people involved in it. It was ridiculous…”
It’s clichéd definitely, but people unfamiliar with heavy music and the behaviour at shows think that’s a regular occurrence, which isn’t true. Smith agrees, “Heavy music is an expression, and we want the people watching and who like it to not worry about expressing themselves without the fear of someone trying to beat them up”.
We’ve all seen those fantastic videos of people getting up in front of Britain’s Got Talent and X-Factor judges and banging out some surprisingly awesome screams and growls to some big bands, or to their own material. Yet all of those videos have one thing in common (apart from being on shitty talent shows), and that’s the bewildered faces on the judges and audience members. Smith thinks that kind of thing is great, and that metal music is on the rise in the public eye.
“I want to break the stigma. A lot of “normal” people associate heavy music with no-hopers and violence, and it’s a huge misinterpretation. It’s an expression, just [like] other styles of music. I really do think it’s on the rise. I remember when I was in high-school, and people used to think I was a Satanist or some shit, as I had some dude screaming in my headphones. It’s definitely more widespread and popular then it was, which is good. I just think that people need to take that one step forward.”
Amen to that brother! So, dear readers, start spreading the good word of metal, and you can help jump-start this transcendence of heavy music out of public scrutiny by showing your friends and family I, Valiance.