Friday, September 7, 2012

Early Graves find the strength to carry on

John Strachan | Chris Brock | Dan Sneddon | Tyler Jensen | Matt O'Brien | Makh Daniels (RIP)

San Francisco loud rock band Early Graves have had their share of tragedy in the past few years. On August 2, 2010, as the band was traveling to Reno from Portland their van crashed, tragically killing their charismatic lead singer Makh Daniels. After some deliberation, the band decided to keep going with friend, and Funeral Pyre vocalist, John Strachan taking over on vocals. It was a long road back, but the band, which includes guitarists Chris Brock and Tyler Jensen, bassist Matt O'Brien, drummer Dan Sneddon was able to persevere. They have a new record entitled "Red Horse" coming out on October 30 on No Sleep Records and will be making a stop at the Cherry Street Station on September 24 with Skeletonwitch and Havok, Pristina and Shallow Ground. We sent Brock and Strachan a bunch of questions and here are there answers on a whole variety of subjects including the van accident, touring, their new label and their new record. It's a very a candid and honest look at a band.

After the tragic accident that took Daniels' life was there a point where you considered ending the band? What made you decide to soldier on? Did you receive a lot of support from your peers in the San Fran metal scene?

Chris: Yeah for sure we considered ending the band for a lot of reasons. One was obviously we lost our singer, lost out friend, lost our sense of security on the road. We decided to carry on because we started playing after some of us healed up from the accident from our own wounds and it felt good. And after a while, we asked the only person who we felt would be right to sing with us which is John. A lot of people probably don't know this, but John and Makh were really good friends. EG and TFP spent a lot of time on tour together and also John would come up and hang out and he sang on two songs from our previous record. Makh sang on a song from a previous Funeral Pyre record, so it was really the only option for singer that would do. The peers in the SF metal scene were supportive, I remember getting a lot of emails from people I never would have thought would care giving us support when the accident happened and it really helped, like Scott Kelly and some friends of ours in All Shall Perish. Just little things. And then Greg Anderson from Southern Lord re-released "Goner" on vinyl and that really helped. Can't say enough about how much Greg helped push us forward, maybe more than he knows.

How did it feel to first take the stage with John Strachan on vocals at the Power Of The Riff Festival last year? Since you have chosen him as the new vocalist, what does he bring to the table? How did you know he was the right person for the job?

Chris: It felt awesome to play again. It was nice to finally play POTR since we missed it the year before due to the accident. John brings a totally different vibe to the table. When we were recording our new album "Red Horse" with Tim Green (who also recorded our last album "Goner") he said it best. Makh's vocals are like a brick wall and John's vocals are like a chain link fence. They are equally as heavy for our band but literally the opposite voices. He brings awesome lyrics, good stage presence and he also brings a knowledge of what we were already doing and an equal amount of drive to push forward into some new territory.

Why did you decide to sign with No Sleep for your new record? To some people it might seem a little odd, but then again you do have a strong hardcore punk influence in your sound and your ethics. Explain.

John - I'd say that this was an outside of the box move, simply because the "metal" labels that are around right now don't really have the ideas and imagination to work with a band. Everything has a script, not to mention, we never really fit in anyway. We all love metal, punk, hardcore, whatever, and it would have been unfair to No Sleep if we didn't listen to their offer, hear their ideas and really take the time to consider them as being an option. Chris: No "Metal" label wanted to sign us. When we started being a band again, we didn't really give a fuck what happened in the "future" we just wanted to play. Then we started to write songs and label talks started to happen. We would get right the point of actually signing something and then it was all the same bullshit as the last minute "this wont sell as well" "its not going to be the same" "blah blah blah". So when we got in contact with No Sleep, on top of being supportive of the band, he wanted to sign us which was nice. They work hard and they care about their bands and all their bands seem to do well in their respected genres. Futhermore, I don't really give a shit what label puts our a band, I care about what the music sounds like. So if its weird for someone that we signed with a label that doesn't have bands that sound like ours on it, they are probably hung up on the wrong reasons to like a band anyways.

How does the new record compare to last one, "Goner"? How is it similar? How is it different?

Chris: "Red Horse" is different than "Goner" for me because its the product of dealing with the accident we were in and picking up the pieces in life and music life. Its heavy like "Goner", its fast like "Goner" but to me, its more like our first album "We: The Guillotine" because it is not a one trick pony. It grooves, it blasts, it has melodic sections, the songs are longer, the subject matter in the lyrics is similar but its someone else's experience in life. I think its a natural expansion of what the band already is: a heavy metal band played dudes that love punk rock and hardcore and rock and roll.  

Is there a significance to the new album's title, "Red Horse"? If so, what is it? And are there any common themes on this record? Are there songs about all the band has been through?

Chris: Yeah the name "Red Horse" actually came from weeks of disagreeing on what to name the album. It came from weeks of us fighting about everything pretty much about the album. "Red Horse" as a title is a reference to the Red Horseman of the apocalypse. This is the horseman who shows up and brings endless war about people and pits man against brother/family ect. He is also a persecutor of Christians. All of this sounded bad ass and metal but there is a deeper as well. It means to us that we are a band that has had to face a lot of bullshit and have had to fight every step of the way as a band, be is getting robbed, losing Makh to a accident, fighting our own feelings of death and mortality in general, fighting amongst ourselves about how to do this band again, the fight to have a label that cares. "Red Horse" just symbolized the band as a whole, so we rolled with is. John - Originally, Chris had come up with the idea to have a four horsemen idea and the "red horse" is death. So we thought it would be a cool idea to run along with, plus it gives you an opportunity to write something that's not necessarily about your personal life. Fictional writing can be just as great and relieving as writing about personal experiences, but looking back, I'm sure it has a parallel meaning to our lives, but that'll surface at some other time.   

What made you decide that now was the time to record and put out a new record? What were the deciding factors?

Chris: No Sleep signed us in April and we had 3 songs written so we booked studio time, wrote as many songs as we could that FIT the record, and gave ourselves 3 months to write an awesome record. There are a few songs that didn't make the album and some were recorded, but we wrote the best 8 songs that fit as an album, not just songs put together.

Given your past experiences on the road, are you looking forward to this extended trip with Skeletonwitch? Is there a little trepidation?

Chris: Yeah I am excited to play places that we haven't played again since we have been back, and I am excited to play with Skeletonwitch in general. They are awesome dudes and we are appreciative to be given the opportunity to do it. As far as trepidation, yeah there is trepidation. I don't want to fucking die. There is a sense of invincibility that I think a lot of bands have when they go on tour that is definitely not there anymore with us, so we are much more safe, we get hotels more often to sleep instead of staying with people, we split up driving shifts more and we are in general just smarter, but you can't let your fears about dying cripple you. You have to have to still live life and do the things that make you happy. John - I'd say for this band, it's good that we're getting out there with Skeletonwitch and really giving our new album some attention. Plus, hanging out with our friends in Skeletonwitch will be a great time. They're hardworking and definitely some people we respect. So it'll be great all around.

What are the plans for the band after the record is released? Are we going to see some extensive touring as headliners as well as you guys taking part of some package tours?

Chris: We are going to tour for sure. Not sure what the plan is right this second, but we are doing a month with Skeletonwitch, and then 10 days by ourselves directly after, and thats about all I know right now. I hope we tour the states and Europe and Japan! Everyone check out our new album "RED HORSE" due out Oct 30th on No Sleep Records.

Manic Productions Presents:

Early Graves
Shallow Ground

Monday, Sept. 24, 2012
Cherry Street Station
491 North Cherry Street Extension
Wallingford, CT
7pm - 21+ - $12

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